Milan judge: 'Mafia strong in Lombardy'

No longer just infiltration

The presence of organised crime in northern Italy is no longer just infiltration – it has reached a level amounting to occupation, according to the president of Milan’s Appeals Court.

Opening the judicial year on 24 January, president Giovanni Canzio dedicated a long section of his speech to the activity of the Calabria-based crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta in Lombardy, stating that an analysis of recent judicial affairs leads to the conclusion that “interaction” and “occupation” have become the more accurate description.

Canzio said he draws this conclusion from the syndicate’s “widespread control of entire areas of territory, exerted through intimidation and in a climate of omertà [code of silence].” This, he stated, has led to the mafia’s “penetration into the crevices of society, of the institutions, of local administrations, the economy, business and finance”, using a strategy “based around ... public financing and corruption to grab contracts for construction, supplies and services.”

To make his point, Canzio reminded his audience of magistrates and jurists of the hundreds of sentences adding up to centuries of jail time handed down in his district. The senior judge also called for more human and material resources to protect the city’s Expo 2015, due to open in less than 100 days. “The State is present and is fighting with all its institutions against the overpowering assault by organised crime,” he said, “guaranteeing legality and civil survival despite the shortage of resources in the legal sector.” But the burst of business activity around the exposition has opened “new and ever richer opportunities” for the underworld, he warned.

On the positive side, Canzio praised the “progressive strengthening of investigative strategies and instruments of prevention.” Investigations and arrests are continuing non-stop, preventive measures are being applied to businesses, and some 70 disqualifications have been slapped on companies vying for Expo contracts and suspected of mafia infiltration, he stated.

Canzio admitted, however, that there has been “understandable public unease” with some “serious events which were challenged, but remained unpunished.” Some acquittals made sensational front-page headlines, said Canzio, and opened a gap between judicial activity and the victims’ “unquenched thirst for justice.” This had cast doubts on the credibility of the judicial system, simply because the sentences were perceived as “unpopular” but without leading to the necessary reflection on the complexity of elements of proof, on the principles of criminal trials, on the rules guaranteeing justice and the role of checks on accusations.

The main mafias, or organised crime syndicates, in Italy are: Cosa Nostra (Sicily, originally known as “the Mafia” before the term became used more widely), ‘Ndrangheta (Calabria), Camorra (Campania) and Sacra Corona Unita (Puglia). Although originally based in the regions quoted, the first three have in recent years expanded their activity outside their home territory, Cosa Nostra principally to the Americas, and ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra to northern Italy and beyond, especially to northern Europe.

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