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MAFIA ‘STRANGLE ITALY PROSPECTS’

The mafia are the biggest threat to southern Italy’s economic prospects, Prime Minister Romano Prodi has told a conference against organised crime. “Lawlessness is the greatest obstacle to economic growth in southern Italy,” he told the three-day forum in Rome. Mr Prodi was briefly heckled by an audience member who said parliament must first purge itself of corrupt MPs.

Some 2,500 people have died in violence blamed on Italy’s three main mafia groups in the last 10 years. According to the organisers of the anti-mafia forum in Rome, politicians have failed to tackle the problem. Top politicians, senior judges, police and security officials and civil society groups were expected to be among the 2,500 participants at the conference.

An escalating turf war between mafia gangs in the Italian city of Naples has led to recent calls for the army to be deployed. “No-one talks about the mafia except in emergencies, as in Naples recently,” Lorenzo Frigerio of the anti-mafia group Libera told the AFP news agency. “You forget that it is a permanent presence in the country and that it has not missed the train of globalisation,” Mr Frigerio said. He added that the issue had been hardly mentioned during the election campaign earlier this year.

Mr Prodi told the forum: “Arresting the mafia chiefs is not enough, we must strike the organizations at their heart.” “More than once I’ve had to throw up my hands with foreign businessmen, who have refused to invest in the south because there weren’t enough guarantees,” he said. As Mr Prodi described his government’s plans to combat the mafia, he was interrupted by an audience member, who said: “You could begin by throwing out of parliament MPs found guilty of corruption.”

Last week, Italian police carried out a series of co-ordinated raids across the country, detaining more than 100 alleged mafia members suspected of drug-trafficking. In a separate development, a Sicilian judge on Wednesday sentenced dozens of associates of jailed mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano for a total of 300 years, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported.

According to the BBC’s David Willey, the Sicilian mafia remains hugely potent as it expands from its traditional drug trafficking to people smuggling and siphoning off millions of dollars from public works contracts.

BBC, Friday, 17 November 2006

UK: MASSIVE FAKE BOLLYWOOD DVD RING SMASHED

MORE than £5 million of counterfeit goods have been seized in west London – including the largest ever haul of pirate Bollywood DVDs.

About 1.75 million items of rip-off merchandise -an estimated 13 tonnes – were seized when officers raided 11 units at a self-storage site in Hayes this week. About 75 per cent of the 200,000 fake DVDs were Bollywood titles, others included the latest cinema releases and pornographic films. Other items included 1.5 million cover sleeves, blank DVDs, CDs, fake Nike and Timberland trainers and sports clothing. More than £6 million in cash was also seized. Four people were arrested and three cars seized, with more arrests expected to follow, Ealing Council said.

DVD titles seized included the latest Bollywood films Don, Umrojaan and Jaaneman and Hollywood blockbusters such as The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, and Saw III. Yet to be released films including this year’s Christmas movie The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause were also found.

British Phonographic Industry general counsel Roz Groome said: “This is without doubt the biggest seizure of Bollywood film and DVDs. “Our record company members will no doubt be pleased to hear that this operation has disbanded what we allege was a highly organised and extensive illegal counterfeiting outfit.”

Named “Operation Don” after the new Bollywood action blockbuster of the same name, the investigation followed months of investigation by the council’s trading standards officers, police and the BPI. Councillor Will Brooks said film piracy was not a victimless crime and those who bought pirate DVDs supported organised crime. “Our officers have followed the chain of intelligence from the street sellers and market stalls to the very centre of packaging and distribution. Smashing this ring at its heart will have a major impact on the counterfeit market in West London and beyond,” he said. “Film piracy may seem like a victimless crime but it has links to organised crime and other criminal activity including the drugs market, violence, benefit fraud, and the abuse of people who are forced to sell these items on the street.”

Genuine items equivalent to those seized would have an estimated value of more than £5 million, the council said. While pirate DVDs would usually be sold for between £3 and £5 each, officers believe the trainers and clothing could have been passed off as genuine items and sold for close to the regular retail price.

Film piracy nets more than £270 million a year for criminals in the UK. Counterfeit DVDs and CDs are sold everywhere from ice cream vans through to barber’s shops and pubs and clubs. It is an attractive trade for criminals who see it as a low risk, high profit industry. Gangs are thought to employ illegal immigrants trying to pay off their debts for a passage to the UK or to cover their lodgings. Counterfeiting has also been linked to terror organisations, which are said to use the trade in fake goods as a means of raising funds and laundering cash.

Friday 17th November 2006
www.thisislocallondon.co.uk

SPAIN: AUTHORITIES LINK ORGANISED CRIME AND PLANNING CORRUPTION IN PROVINCE OF CADIZ

Investigators are looking into cases of developers purposefully building on land not designated for construction

Until now the phenomenon of illegal construction in the province of Cadiz was limited to a sprinkling of houses built by individuals, as either second homes, or, at the most, an investment for the future. Nevertheless the Cadiz Public Prosecution Department has detected the first links between organised crime and the real estate industry.
At the beginning of last week, ángel Núñez of the environmental crimes department, said that so far this year some 83 investigations into planning offences had been opened in the Cadiz area, a figure that did not include the cases being dealt with by the prosecution departments in the Campo de Gibraltar area and Jerez, indicating a significant increase on the 102 cases investigate in the entire province in 2005.

While illegal construction by individuals is a serious problem (although the majority of municipalities aim to solve this by including the buildings in question in the new development plans) the appearance of evidence of criminal organisations benefitting from the real estate boom is far more worrying. “I don’t know whether we should talk about organised crime, but we are seeing greater levels of organisation. Investigations are looking into developers who purposefully build on land not designated for construction”, said Nuñez.

Furthermore the Prosecution Department is working on cases of drug dealers who could be investing their profits in illegal construction, either as a way of money laundering or of increasing their assets.

In one operation earlier this year, which broke up a ring of drug dealers based in Conil, investigators discovered how the ringleaders were building two mansions, valued at 900,000 and 350,000 euros respectively, on land not designated for construction.

Several other investigations still open are looking into connections between municipal officials and planning offences. “We’re far from Marbella, but if we are not careful, anything could reach this area”, warned Núñez. One minor example already revealed is the case of the former municipal architect in Grazalema who was arrested recently in connection with demanding money in exchange for contracts for controversial public works. The Department has pointed out that this is not the only case of illegitimate income earned from “municipal employees conniving with business people”.

Finally Núñez explained how foreigners are often the victims of cases of fraud, when they have bought property or land “believing that it was legal”. Many of them are attracted by the lower prices advertised in the area, compared with other tourist destinations, for example the Malaga coastline.

“There are also cases of people who know exactly what they are buying but are convinced by the developer that nothing will happen”. This message seems to have stuck in the province recently. “The lack of awareness of the local people of the damage an illegal property can cause has allowed the problem to spread”, added Núñez.

SUR
10 November 2006

ITALIAN MAFIA TAKING ROOT IN GERMANY

BERLIN: Italian organised crime is gaining a strong foothold in Germany and has invested proceeds of its illegal activities in energy companies listed in Frankfurt and Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, a newspaper reported yesterday. Citing a secret study by Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND), the Berliner Zeitung said the Calabrian mafia, known as the ‘Ndrangheta, was using Germany to invest cash from drugs and weapons smuggling.

The group had invested double-digit millions of its profits in German hotels, restaurants and real estate, especially in former communist eastern Germany and along the Baltic coast, the paper quoted the study as saying. A BND spokesman said yesterday that the agency would probably not be able to comment on the newspaper report until tomorrow.

According to the BND study, two ‘Ndrangheta clans were especially entrenched in Germany and were smuggling weapons from Switzerland and Germany in close co-operation with Albanian mafia groups, the paper said. As part of its money laundering activities, the ‘Ndrangheta had also bought up large packages of shares in companies listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, particularly energy firms, the BND study said. Some clans had also invested in shares in Gazprom, in which German gas market leader E.ON-Ruhrgas has a 6.4% stake. E.ON-Ruhrgas could not be reached for comment.

The BND study levelled sharp criticism at the Italian authorities, saying their efforts to tackle organised crime were inadequate, the Berliner Zeitung said. On the one hand, laws introduced by the government of former prime minister Silvio Berlusoni had made fighting organised crime harder and on the other the ‘Ndrangheta had succeeded in infiltrating political and judicial bodies, the study said.

– Reuters
12 November, 2006

ITALIAN JUDGE HELD ON CRIME LINKS, TWO MORE UNDER SUSPICION

ROME : An Italian judge has been arrested in the southern Calabria region on charges of having ties to organised crime, and two others are under suspicion.

Patrizia Serena Pasquin, head of the civil division of the court in Vibo Valentia, is suspected of corruption, forgery and fraud on behalf of the Mancuso “cosca”, or clan, one of the most active criminal groups in the ‘ndrangheta, the Calabrian equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia. Her two colleagues, who have not been identified, are suspected of aiding her, the ANSA news agency reported Friday.

Besides the judges, a total of 33 lawyers, businessmen and shopkeepers are under investigation by the office fighting anti-organised crime in Salerno, near Naples, in the Campania region. Of these, 15 were detained Friday at the request of the prosecutor, Luigi Apicella. The inquiry began two years ago in Calabria but was moved to another region after it was revealed that local judges might be implicated.

Pasquin is suspected of having done favours for the Mancuso clan when tourist infrastructures were being built in the Vibo region. According to ANSA her name regularly cropped up during a trial in progress involving the Mancuso clan in respect of “contacts” that clan boss Diego Mancuso sought to bring into play to recover goods confiscated by the authorities under anti-mafia legislation.

Pasquin is an experienced judge who began her career in 1980 and has alternated between criminal and civil courts. She conducted the early part of the investigation in 1994 of Nicholas Green, an American child fatally injured during an attempted robbery of a car on a Calabrian road. Initially acquitted, those responsible were given long jail terms in 1998.

The ‘ndrangheta specialises in drug-trafficking and protection rackets but is also active in real estate. Its base is Calabria but its tentacles extend to North and South America, Albania, Turkey and north Africa, and it has branches in Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and even Australia.

AFP 10 November 2006

PIRACY STATS DON’T ADD UP

A confidential briefing for the Attorney-General’s Department, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, lashes the music and software sectors. The draft of the institute’s intellectual property crime report, sighted by The Australian shows that copyright owners “failed to explain” how they reached financial loss statistics used in lobbying activities and court cases.

Figures for 2005 from the global Business Software Association showing $361 million a year of lost sales in Australia are “unverified and epistemologically unreliable”, the report says. BSAA chairman Jim Macnamara said the figure was an extrapolation, but other studies had supported it. “They’re entitled to say they’re not convinced, but not necessarily entitled to say it’s unverified,” he said.

The study, which says some of the statistics used by copyright owners are “absurd”, will be redrafted after senior researchers disagreed with its conclusions. Painting a picture of an industry seething with competitive jealousies, the report describes how “well-connected Canberra-based lobbyists” fight for government attention and police time on piracy.

Researcher Alex Malik, working for the AIC under a commission from the Attorney-General’s Department and IP Australia, was particularly critical of the use of statistics in court. “Of greatest concern is the potentially unqualified use of these statistics in courts of law,” the draft reads. Mr Malik declined to speak to The Australian, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Institute principal criminologist Russell Smith said the report was an early draft that was being edited by the agency. “We wouldn’t use language like that because it’s not accurate, it’s hyperbolic and overblown,” he said. “It was a very early draft written by a consultant, and we would want a chance to revise it.

“We have an extensive quality control system in the institute, so that drafts are read by most senior staff. “The report hasn’t been finalised. It’s still being edited and revised.” Copyright owners have lobbied for several years to have a study done, hoping their figures will result in more law enforcement action on piracy.

The report, intended as a confidential government briefing, casts doubt on the methodology of some industry piracy studies. It says the manager of the recording industry’s anti-piracy arm, Music Industry Piracy Investigations, did not know how piracy estimates were calculated, as that work was done by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries in London.

Copyright owners often use street-value estimates to calculate losses, but this assumes that every person who bought pirated goods would otherwise have paid for a legitimate item, the report notes. MIPI manager Sabiene Heindl defended the figures, which she said were based on local survey, research and seizure statistics, but compiled in Britain. “The reason I wasn’t personally aware of how they are prepared is because they are compiled by the IFPI,” she said. “They have a group that has been doing this for some time.”

Ms Heindl said the report was not intended to be made public. “We haven’t had an opportunity to see the report,” she said. “My understanding is it wasn’t to be a public document and that any submissions were to be considered confidential.”

The most recent locally commissioned study was in the late 1990s, Mr Macnamara said. Many copyright holders claimed links between piracy and organised crime, but AIC researcher had found nothing to support that view. “Either there is no evidence of any links between piracy and organised crime or it is simply beyond the capacity of rights holders to identify these links,” he wrote, adding that he was concerned about the way piracy figures were being used. “It is inappropriate for courts and policy makers to accept at face value currently unsubstantiated statistics. “Either these statistics must be withdrawn or the purveyors of these statistics must supply valid and transparent substantiation.”

Some industry groups were reluctant to work with researchers, because of concern about data leaking to competitors. Much of that has to do with a fight over access to resources. “There is a perception among some rights holders that they are in competition with each other over limited federal government resources,” the report says. “They fear that if they reveal the nature of their relationships with government, such as the placement of well-connected Canberra lobbyists, they will jepordise their advantage.”

The Australian
NOVEMBER 07, 2006

CALL FOR PAPERS ORGANISED CRIME IN ASIA: GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Organised crime phenomena in Asia will be the focus of a special edition of the Asian Journal of Criminology to be published in September 2007.

The rapid forces of globalisation and its impact on the socio-political and economic order have provided an impetus to reconceptualise our understanding of the dynamics of organised crime as a latent social force.

This raises several important issues, both conceptual and empirical, for discussion which the journal seeks to address. Specifically, we would be interested to receiving submissions on the following or related topics:

• Organised crime and the State (eg. politics, security, accountability, governance)
• Organised crime and terrorism
• Organised crime, international law and transnational policing

The journal has appointed Dr. Mark Craig and Dr Narayanan Ganapathy as guest editors for this special edition. Abstracts of 250 words should reach the guest editors by 31 December, 2006. Full papers will be required by 30 April, 2007 and publication will be subject to normal peer review process. A colloquium has been tentatively organised for June, 2007 in Singapore. Further details will be available at a later date. Please see: Asian Journal of Criminology

For more information:
Dr Mark Craig, School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia: m.craig@qut.edu.au
Dr Narayanan Ganapathy, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore: socng@nus.edu.sg

CIROC SEMINAR: ‘EAST MEETS WEST’ 20 DECEMBER 2006

On May 1, 2004 10 new countries from Central and East Europe joined the European Union, on January 1, 2007 two more countries will follow them. This enlargement provided not only new economic possibilities, but also created new opportunities for organized crime. Politicians, journalists and scholars emphasize the fear that West Europe is about to ‘import’ crime from the East Europe. But also West European criminals ‘discover’ new illicit markets and clients in East Europe. How serious is the problem of import/export of organized crime to- and from East Europe? This is the subject which Dutch and East European criminologists will discuss during the present CIROC seminar.

Programme

9.30 – 10.00 Coffee

10.00 – 10.15 Opening – Prof. Dr. Henk van de Bunt (EUR/ CIROC)

Morning session
The criminal threat of the EU enlargement – myth and reality (chair: Prof. Dr. Henk van de Bunt, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam/ CIROC)

10.15 – 11.00 The criminal import/export between East and West Europe – Dr. Dina Siegel (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, CIROC)

11.00 – 11.45 Transnational Organised Crime, illegal markets and human trafficking from Serbia to the Western Europe – Prof. Dr. Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic, (Victimology Society of Serbia.)

11.45 – 12.30 Discussion

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

Afternoon session
Situation in Eastern Europe – crime for export? (chair: Dr. Dina Siegel, VU/ CIROC)

13.30 – 14.15 Bulgarian Organized Crime – Tihomir Bezlov (Center for Study of Democracy, Sofia, Bulgaria)

14.15 – 15.00 The evolution of Albanian organized crime groups in Belgium and the Netherlands: what has changed since 1996? – Jana Arsovska (Catholic University of Leuven)

15.00 – 15.30 Koffie / coffee break

15.30 – 16.15 The view of Dutch law enforcement – mr. Jan Boersma (Nationale Recherche, VU)

16.15 –16.45 Discussion

16.45 – 17.30 Drink

For more informatio visit the CIROC website.

POLICE GANGLAND RAIDS TO NET MILLIONS

DETECTIVES are set to launch an unprecedented swoop on Melbourne’s mogul-gangsters after identifying concealed asset trails of more than $100 million. The Purana gangland taskforce, backed by forensic accountants, has spent more than a year tracing secret cash flows, concealed investments and dummy companies that have been used to hide the massive profits made by major drug syndicates.

The analysis has for the first time given police an accurate overview of the size of the organised crime black economy — a figure much larger than previous informed estimates. The taskforce has found that runaway drug tycoon Tony Mokbel is at least twice as wealthy as first thought. Detectives have identified assets worth $40 million connected with the Mokbel empire. They believe much of the money has been spread through a network of family members and friends who have acted as informal agents. But they also believe the planning for the distribution of the assets was completed using professional financiers.

Police are planning a series of raids to identify, freeze and finally sell the Mokbel fortune. While Mokbel has successfully moved some of his assets offshore, police believe that by destroying his Australian asset base he is more likely to surface. Last month police successfully applied to the Supreme Court to have Mokbel deemed convicted under the Confiscation Act of three state-based drugs charges laid in 2001. While Mokbel was convicted of federal cocaine charges earlier this year, the latest moves enable his assets to be sold under state confiscation laws.

Mokbel jumped bail and fled overseas in March this year, just days before he was found guilty of Commonwealth cocaine trafficking charges and sentenced to a minimum of nine years’ jail. In a Purana raid in September police recovered around $1 million in cash and jewels buried in a Parkdale backyard. They found $350,000 in cash, 18 watches, 61 loose items of jewellery and 33 jewellery boxes concealed in PVC pipes that they allege were hidden on behalf of the Mokbel family.

In October police seized a Ferrari owned by a man alleged to be a partner in a Mokbel company. He was charged with four counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and one of making a false document as part of a Purana money laundering investigation.

Detective Superintendent Richard Grant said police plan to brief specialist groups such as the Law Institute, accountancy firms and council planning units on how organised crime groups manipulate professionals to assist in concealing assets. He said police had begun identifying the assets of up to 50 suspected major crime figures and plan to use strengthened asset seizure laws to freeze their profits. “It is no longer enough to just lock up some of these people. Many are prepared to risk long stints in jail if they know that on their release they can live million-dollar lifestyles,” he said. “Our plan is to dismantle these groups so that when they do the time they will be released to nothing.”

Superintendent Grant refused to outline the police asset raids timetable and said it was impossible to say the value of the assets that would eventually be forfeited. “It is enough to say we will come knocking when we are ready. We will follow due process and we are certainly here for the long haul.”

The Age.com.au
November 6, 2006

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