The mafia is a bigger security threat than terrorism or migration: Europol

Increasingly violent organised crime groups pose the biggest threat to European security, outstripping terrorism and migration, top police from across the continent said on Tuesday.

The mafia is a bigger security threat than terrorism or migration: Europol
An anti-mafia raid in Germany in December 2018. Photo: Christoph Reichwein/dpa/AFP

Italian mafia groups, Albanians and Eastern Europeans, and “outlaw” motorcycle gangs were the biggest players, officials told a conference led by Italy's anti-mafia agency and the EU police agency Europol. But Asian, African and South American groups were also muscling in on Europe's €110-billion-a-year organised crime business, with many increasingly working with each other, the meeting in The Hague heard.

“Currently organised crime constitutes the highest risk for EU internal security, Jari Liukku, head of Europol's European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, told a press conference.

READ ALSO: Europe underestimates 'cancer' of Italian mafia: experts

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Officials said that organised crime had been “in the shadow” in recent years when Europe faced a wave of terrorist attacks and a huge migration crisis, but that it now had to be tackled by cross-border cooperation. “To prevent organised crime we have to act internationally, because the organised crime groups are already doing it,” added Liukku.

Giuseppe Governale, head of Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate, said the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and Neapolitan Camorra were still the biggest, but added that the problem was more widespread.

“This is a European problem,” he said.

European authorities had to crack down on money laundering in particular as a way of starving organised crime groups of their lifeblood, Governale told the news conference. “Mass money-laundering has a great impact on society, whole sectors are destabilised and it can jeopardise the national economy and security,” he added.


One hallmark of the new organised crime groups was an increasing level of violence, officials told the conference.

Sweden in particular had seen an unprecedented surge of violence akin to a “low intensity form of warfare,” senior Swedish police official Jale Poljarevius said. Fatal shootings had risen from around 15 a year in 2011 to over 40 in 2018, while in the first three months of 2019 there had been 12 gun deaths in 67 shootouts — as well as one dead in 47 grenade explosions.

“Sweden has never before seen these kinds of numbers,” Poljarevius said.

In December EU authorities announced the arrest of around 90 suspected 'Ndrangheta mobsters in six countries in Europe and South America.

READ ALSO: Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia 'on all continents' and still growing

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‘Serious design flaw’: Ex-official says risk of Genoa bridge collapse was known

A former director of the group with ultimate responsibility for Italy's Genoa bridge has said it knew of the dangers eight years before the highway collapsed in 2018, killing 43 people.

‘Serious design flaw’: Ex-official says risk of Genoa bridge collapse was known

In 2010 Gianni Mion was managing director of the Benetton family’s holding group, Edizione, which owned Autostrade per l’Italia (Aspi), the company paid by the state to manage the Morandi bridge.

“In a meeting between managers and executives, doubts arose about whether the Morandi bridge could remain standing, due to a serious design flaw,” Mion told a court in Genoa on Monday at a trial hearing.

READ ALSO: Genoa bridge collapse: 59 people to stand trial over disaster as operator settles

“I asked if there was a third party that certified the stability of the viaduct. They told me that we self-certified it. That answer terrified me,” he said, according to Italian news agency reports.

“Nobody thought, though, that it would collapse and we were reassured on that point. I didn’t say anything but I was worried. I didn’t do anything and that’s my big regret,” Mion was quoted as saying.

Nearly 60 defendants went on trial in Genoa in July last year, accused of manslaughter and undermining transport safety over the collapse of the bridge in the northwest Italian city.

The Morandi bridge gave way in torrential rain on August 14, 2018, sending dozens of vehicles and their passengers tumbling into the abyss.

Egle Possetti, who heads a committee of victims’ relatives, said it was “unacceptable” for someone of Mion’s position to have remained silent.

Egle Possetti (C), at the first hearing of the Morandi bridge collapse trial on 7 July, 2022.

Egle Possetti (C), at the first hearing of the Morandi bridge collapse trial on 7 July, 2022. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP.

Those on trial include the general manager of Autostrade at the time, Giovanni Castellucci, and Antonino Galata, the former head of Spea, the engineering company in charge of maintenance.

Roberto Tomasi, who took over as general manager of Autostrade in 2019, told the court on Monday that “the level of network degradation was substantially worse than Spea’s inspections stated”.

READ ALSO: ‘The sadness is unending’: Italian families’ pain still raw ahead of Genoa bridge trial

He said Spea was not considered to be “reliable” and “the behaviour of some of its employees was unacceptable”.

Even though their former directors are on trial, Autostrade and Spea will escape the courts, thanks to an out-of-court settlement with the public prosecutor’s office, which provides for a payment of 29 million euros ($30 million) to the state.