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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New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”