Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with an Italian vice-procurator for a fight with mafia and terrorism – Giovanni Russo

WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: The Italian word ‘mafia’ became a symbol of organized criminality. But there is not only mafia. What criminal organizations of the mafia type are on the territory of Italy today?

GIOVANNI RUSSO: There are traditional historical criminal organizations (Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Camorra in the region of Campaign, Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, Sacra Corona in Apulla), but there are appearing new criminal groups which are consolidating together and which are borrowing methods and targets from the already formed organizations, and they are characterized by more ‘flexibility’. Beside that today’s organized criminality has learnt to connect the local dimension connected with controlling a territory with the transnational dimension.

How did the area of functioning of mafia organization change in Italy in the beginning of the 21st century?

During the last twenty years there has appeared –in the global scale – imposing phenomena modifying social structures and customs, techniques of production and organizations, systems of communication and payment. In addition there are epoch phenomena, like migrations of population and new rules of mutual relations among countries. These changes could not influence the areas of illegal and criminal activity. The stage of acting of criminal group has spread geographically, which made ‘new players’ appear on the set of criminal activity of many countries, able to coordinate spreading illegal international trade, manage it, but also making useful relations with local criminal groups.

How is mafia criminality fought in Italy?

At the level of the dimension of justice we are undertaking preventive and repressive actions. In Italy there are binding legal regulations which are suitable. Whereas there are growing difficulties of criminal activity and rough technological development which gives mafia lots of tools to avoid wiretap. But a real area of ‘confrontation’ are properties of mafia and ability of criminals to use whole sectors of economy and finances. Today the fight with mafia organizations is won mainly by nullifying their illegal profits and confiscating possessions of clans. Powerful legal tools (confiscations and preventive means) as well as high qualifications of specialized inspectors made it possible to achieve extraordinary results. So far the National Agency for Administration of Properties Confiscated from Criminals returned over 15 thousand of estates to state associations and institutions, and about 4 thousand of companies were confiscated from mafia organizations.
Certainly, intervention of the justice ministry must be accompanied by permanent effort for the sake of strengthening at the social and cultural level of successes in fights against mafias. It is mainly necessary to explain exactly how harmful mafias are for people and the whole society and how insidious their way of acting is.

What other rights allowed for fighting mafias?

Surely, here there is a great role of the so-called collaborator of the administration of justice – it was intuition of an Sicilian procurator Giovanni Falcon, which turned out to be a powerful weapon in a fight with mafia. A legal institution whose aim is to fight closed organizations, to which jurisdiction with traditional tools would never be able to reach. ‘Collaborator of justice’ make it possible to achieve extraordinary results in a fight with criminality of mafia, particularly with closed groups.
The next tool in our hands is varied prison regime for dangerous criminals. A possibility of subordinating chiefs of mafia organizations to a safer prison regime got reduced and nearly completely made it possible for them to continue managing clans from a prison.

Many years ago I met with a procurator Pieruligi Vigna from Florence. He was worried that near Florence, in Prato, a Chinese mafia was beginning to act. Are we really aware of a danger from Chinese mafia organizations which placed their tentacles all over the world?

Together with the increase of Chinese population in Italy, the criminal activity of this ethnical group is also growing proportionally. Using brutal methods, Chinese criminal organizations are managing public premises organizing hazard games, drugs trade, prostitution or usurious activity against compatriots or are controlling them. There are robberies and extortion of tribute from other entrepreneurs and traders.
However, the basic activity of Chinese mafias is falsifying known industrial models and makes and smuggling counterfeit goods. By reducing costs of production and using compatriots for illegal work, the ethnic mafia is overwhelming the market with the goods at very competitive prices in comparison to enterprises of a particular country. Chinese criminal organizations are also beginning to deal with other procedures more and more often, such as: introducing food products into the market, containing dangerous substances or being in a bad state of preservation, illegal trade of waste from plastic materials, ‘cloning’ credit cards, and also IT fraud. I would say that in the case of the Chinese mafia we have reasons to worry.

How should a country defend itself from penetrating organized criminality coming from abroad?

First of all, we must understand dynamics of mafia actions in order to prevent and fight them. But the most serious mistake which can be made is a belief that a territory or a country – for example, Poland – are ‘resistant’ to this danger. We should realize that a lot of criminal groups departed from classical ways of gaining illegal profits such as drugs trade, extortions smuggling, controlling prostitution, etc. Many years ago mafia organizations attacked legal economy – it is a new business entrusted to the white collars and which has widened an areas of criminal actions a lot, making it possible for easier concealing incomes from crimes, mainly controlling economic activity which is not illegal any longer (tenders, trade, industry) but is beginning to serve to mafia interests. When mafia actions accept such big proportions that they will stop being ‘invisible’, it will be too late, and harms for the country and the society may be irreversible – the market system will be disturbed and competition will become distorted, healthy economic powers will be excluded and marginalized, the employment policy will be aiming not only at the development of business and the good of workers but also the interests of the criminal world.
Beside that criminal organizations resort to various methods of controlling political and administrative groups. The purpose of these actions is controlling expenditure of public means and having influence on decision-making organs appointed to manage territorial strictures and supplies. Criminals use blackmail, violence or bribery in it, using neglects and lack of preparation among some law enforcement authorities.

New activity of organized criminality concerns removing wastes, hazard and people trade – profits are enormous, and the risk is minimum. The problem of removing wastes, the legal and illegal ones, also appeared in Poland, but not everyone is aware of dramatic ecologic and health consequences of their improper supplying and removing. What advice would you give to the Polish authorities in relation to penetration of criminality into the sector of utilization of wastes?

We should have eyes wide open and suitable ‘sensors’ in order to catch the presence of mafia groups. It is necessary to activate an intensive and permanent plan of monitoring the situation with the participation of all state and private institutions which should be aware of delicacy of a moment and catch the signals of infiltration of criminal organizations. And it is necessary to strike at the ‘grey sphere’ which allows mafia to reinvest illegal profits.

What is the ‘grey sphere’?

The ‘grey sphere’ is a kind of abyss in which signs of illegal profits get lost thanks to the help of real professionals, well integrated with the local society and economic groups which serve to criminal organizations with their knowledge.

Globalization of organized criminality should be responded to with globalization of apparatuses which are fighting with mafias. Shouldn’t police and administration of justice in various countries cooperate better in the fight with criminality which does not know any limits?

Effectiveness of a strategy of fighting organized criminality (but also terrorism) – in the current scenario characterized by transnational actions – must be based on using the most advanced ways of collecting, modifying and sharing information. Traditional systems are insufficient, only effective implementing system based on cooperation in quick exchange of data and information among countries and particular organs of executing law, responsible for fighting organized criminality and terrorism will make it possible to restrict and overcome those most dangerous forms of criminality of our century.

What are relations like of the Italian Directors of Anti-mafia with Poland?

These are standard relations which are obliging in the European Union. However, it would be more than demanded strengthening them through signing particular agreements about partnership (‘memorandum of understanding’). We are ready to give in our bank of data, one of the biggest in the world, to suitable organs in Poland; the bank includes information on organized criminality and terrorism. We would be willing to exchange acquired experiences with our Polish colleagues.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 20/2019 (19 V 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: