„Mafia? No Thanks!“ 

„Mafia? No Thanks!“ 

Since a few days I am a brand-new member of a German association called „Mafia? Nein Danke!“ (Mafia?NoThanks!) founded by Laura Garavini, a member of the Italian parliament and a member of the Italian-German parliamentary group, shortly after the killings in Duisburg in August 2007 by ’ndrangheta, the mafia of Calabria. Only a few weeks later, the same organization tried to extort money from restaurants in Berlin. But they failed. Over 40 restaurant owners stand together with the support of Mafia?NeinDanke! and denounced the racketeers. They were all arrested in the last night of the year 2007. Since then, Mafia?NeinDanke! is active in informing about the activities in Germany of the 4 Italian criminal organizations Camorra, ’ndrangheta, Sacra Corona Unita and the Sicilian Mafia.

This week they co-organized a conference in Berlin that took place on July 12th in the Italian embassy in Berlin: „For freedom and security – how do we approach the organized crime in Europe?” The list of speakers was very high-level: Italian and German prosecutors, politicians, journalists, judges, scientists, experts on money-laundering, Europol and I learned many lessons about the Italian mafias in Germany.

Did you know that:

  • That Germany is the country #1 for laundering of mafia’s bloody money?
  • There are 600 mafiosi known names in Germany of which 300 are from ’ndrangheta alone?
  • Every Euro you spend for fake Prada or illegal cigarettes as well as obviously for drugs are making mafia richer?
  • That if you go to the Oktoberfest or Café at/near Marienplatz in Munich mafia is sitting at your table?
  • That mafia is dealing with faked drugs like Viagra and that „faked drugs are the new cocaine“ as the revenue is enormous?

The dutch flower market is infiltrated by ’ndrangheta, many real estate assets near the German Ostküste (Eastern Sea) are in Mafia’s hands as well. Mafia is globalizing and so should Anti-Mafia. European laws need to harmonize here, we all have to learn from Italians here. But there is still a log way to go, although some first steps have been finally made this year: in April German parliament finally passed a law that allows prosecutors to confiscate money or other assets of members of mafia and in May a new law against money laundering was adopted. What is still missing is the rest of the necessary anti-mafia-package of laws and regulations: we need a law that being a member of a mafia organization is already a crime, we need a better regulation to protect former mafia bosses who want to collaborate with the authorities (similar to the „Kronzeugenregelung“ introduced during terrorism in Germany in the seventies), but above all we need a mafia specific regulation that it is up to the person suspicious of being a mafioso to demonstrate where his money comes from. At the conference the ministers of interior announced instead celebrated their successes. (Here is a summary in German). But they are not enough.

Why should we care? Why should YOU care as well?

Well, the huge amount of illegal money in the hands of Mafia affects us all sooner or later. It threatens democracy and fair rules. Mafia is involved in public tenders. YOUR COMPANY might be losing a tender because mafia imposes his own vendors. YOUR COMPANY might lose against a competitor because mafia can offer lower prices. Remember: they don’t need to make profit, they only need to launder the dirty money. If your company looses, you loose: Best case, your bonus. Worst case, your job.

You meet them everywhere: Mafia is involved in drug business (remember when you smoke your next joint), in human trafficking (sex workers, refugees, forced labour i.e. in meat industry, etc.), in the entire food chain (!) (think about the bad Döner meat), in faked medicine/drugs as above, in game of hazard/slot machines, in waste business, above all very dangerous waste, fake clothing / „fake Prada“, illegal (and fake) cigarettes as well.

To be more concrete: ’Ndrangheta is active in Tübingen, Ravensburg, Berlin, Freiburg, Donau-Eschingen, Villingen-Schwenningen, Frankfurt, Ludwigsburg, Mannheim, Singen, Stuttgart, Münster, München, Nürnberg, Kassel, Marburg, Dresden, Leipzig, Riesa, Wismar, Erfurt, Weimar, Saarbrücken, Siegburg, Krefeld, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Hagen, Köln, Aachen, Bochum, Detmold, Essen, Gelsenkirchen.

The independent journalists of CORRECTIV put together many articles about Mafia in Germany (and Italy). You can find them here.

The huge amount of money (mostly from drugs) is invested/laundered in legal businesses, representing unfair competition. To YOUR COMPANY. If you live in Italy, democracy is directly affected by mafia, influencing the results of elections. Selling and buying votes. That is not fair, not democratic. Mafia puts at risk our democracies and affects our lives – in Italy more than in Germany, but also in Germany we are not Mafia- free.

Not at all.

Palermo’s Addiopizzo! Good-bye racketeer! 

Palermo’s Addiopizzo! Good-bye racketeer! 

Last week I have been in Palermo, the capital of Sicily.

You might have heard that in Palermo there is mafia and that mafia asks all owners of commercial activities or restaurants to pay a fee, called „pizzo“ (= „Protection fee“). Otherwise they will put fire on your shop or even kill you, as they did 1982 with merchant Pietro Grassi who wrote an open letter to his racketeers refusing to pay. („Lettera al mio caro estorsore“).

Good news is: this practice is no longer that widespread! In 2004, a group of recently graduated students wanted to open their own bar, but while they were writing their business plan they had to take into account also the expenses to pay the „pizzo“ to the local mafia. Higher costs meant to rise prices, making their customers pay indirectly to mafia as well. Frustrated by this mere idea they printed thousands of stickers saying „an entire nation that pays the pizzo is a nation without dignity“. Being called to be a person „without dignity“ in the dialect of Palermo is a huge offense. In a warm summer night, at the end of June 2004, the team and their friends attached those stickers all over Palermo. Literally everywhere. The next morning the local (and later the day also the national) news were reporting on this brave and courageous act. „Addiopizzo“ was born, a movement joined today by more than 1000 entrepreneurs and restaurant owners that refuse to pay to Mafia joined by normal citizens supporting the fight against mafia.

Surprisingly, until today, none of them ever got trouble with mafia!

Addiopizzo was very smart in achieving their goals. Instead of trying to start with recruiting merchants, they decided to start first with collecting the signature of 3.500 citizens that committed to buy from mafia-free Shops or eat in mafia-free restaurants. Only with this list, the potential customers, they started to contact the owners of bars, restaurants and shops and ask them if they wanted to join the movement. At that point, their major fear, to be alone and avoided by customers, was gone.

All applicants are thoroughly examined and once official members, they received a sticker to put at the windows of their shops or bars or restaurants saying that they won’t pay to mafia. This sticker today is a deterrent to mafia asking for money.

But Addiopizzo did more than that: They published the list, they continually widen the number of participants and continued to support all those owners against mafia: once a year Addiopizzo organizes a fairy where they bring together pizzo-free merchants and potential customers, means, all those Palermitans that are well aware that buying goods or eating pizza in other places means that part of the money they spend goes directly to the Mafia and supports their bloody and dirty affairs.

If you ever have the change to go to Palermo, please check out the list and buy and eat there to support those who stand agains mafia. There is also a very nice app for your smartphone, called NOMA, which contains the updated list, as well as other information about mafia.

If you are generally interested in the anti-mafia movement I strongly recommend to take the tour „PalermoNoMafia“ in English or Italian, a 3 hours tour at the very heart of Palermo by AddiopizzoTravel. The money you pay helps to support the movement. The tour guides are very professional, dismantling the folkloristic view about mafia deriving from movies like „The Godfather“, explaining you instead the much more complex reality as well as the history of the movement against mafia that became a mass-movement after the killing of the two judges Falcone and Borsellino in 1992.

You can book this basic tour via TripAdvisor / Viator here. Depending on the level of your interest, there are even more tours about Mafia and Anti-Mafia by Addiopizzotravel, you can find them here.

The German broadcast ZDF talks about Addiopizzo and the tour we took here with Chiara at Minute 7’30” for seven minutes.