Sunday , February 28 2021

How does the mafia get to our food

Giuseppe Antoci was warned more than once. "You will finish with your neck cut," read a single note consisting solely of individual letters removed from newspapers in the style of the release note.

In May 2016 they arrived. Antoci, then President of the Nebrod National Park, a protected area in the north-east of Sicily, returned home from the meeting, accompanied by his police escort. As his armed Lancia's work rounded off the bend in Miraglia's forest, he saw that the mountain road was stoned, causing the driver to stop.

First, the two testers were pulled off the wheels of the vehicle to stop it. There was a blow afterwards. The alleged killers finally ended, but Antoci remembers his terror this night: "The police tried to transfer me to another car, but in my fear I did not recognize them. I thought I was kidnapped. I thought about my family and asked them to be safe. . "

Antoci believes that the Sicilian Mafia has led an attack in response to new rules that block millions of Euros from subsidizing EU agricultural land to achieve this. It was the worst mafia attack on the national representative since the massacre of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Stifling agricultural subsidies does not have the same dubious "charm" as a rebellion or drug trafficking, which is usually associated with a mafia. But it has become a very lucrative income stream for Italian organized crime syndicates. Their turning in agriculture does not end: they have fallen into all food chains in recent years, according to the Rome Research Center – crime monitoring in agriculture and the food chain.

With the ten-year economic crisis in Italy, the mafia has bought cheap agricultural land, cattle, markets and restaurants, money laundering using money, one of the country's leading industries. According to the Observatory, the value of the so-called agrometric business has almost doubled from 12.5 billion in 2011 to over 22 billion euros in 2018 (an average increase of 10 per cent annually).

Now it accounts for 15 percent of the total expected mafia turnover. "The credibility of the company in a crisis has led to a mafia interest," says Stefano Masini, a professor of Observatory. "It is profitable and not dangerous, for example, in the drug market, and now they are placed in the field from field to desk."

From the Kianti terroir to the ancient olive groves in Pulia, Italian mafia organizations have spoken throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data shows that all major Italian crime syndicates – the Naples chameleon, Sicily Kosa Nostra and Ndrangheta from the Calabria region – are investing in agriculture.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Palestinian mafia historian, Mob's interest in the agricultural sector is currently "trafficking in human beings, money laundering, extortion, debt relief, illicit cultivation, backstream breeding and baking and toxic waste disposal on agricultural land." This is an integrated cycle full of complex systematic interaction. "

In a globalized industry, the prevalence of mafia exceeds Italian borders by influencing dishes for dishes worldwide. Often, the methods remain in the old school: bribery, bullying, counterfeiting and extortion. But cartels have also developed golden stock knowledge to infiltrate local councils and commissions that award competitions and subsidies.

Under Antoci's open plan, Mafiosi and their subsidiaries lease hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in Nebrodi's state park, using intimidation to scare off their opponents' offers. When Antoci took over in 2013, he found 80 percent of the park's lease under Mafia controls, including Gaetano Riina, Salvatore's "Toto" Riina brother, also known as The Beast, a Sicilian mafia officer who died recently in the year, when life sentences are pronounced.

Alcara li Fusi Nebrodi Park, Sicily. In 2013, it was discovered that many park rental companies are under Mafia control. Photographer: DeAgostini / Getty Images

Alcara li Fusi Nebrodi Park, Sicily. In 2013, it was discovered that many park rental companies are under Mafia control. Photographer: DeAgostini / Getty Images

Antoci believes that in rare cases this land was actually grown. A Mafia family could claim around EUR 1 million a year for EU subsidies of 1,000 hectares, while renting it for even 37,000 euros. "With a profit margin of up to 2000 percent without risk, why sell drugs or take robberies when you can simply wait until the check arrives?" He speaks by telephone from his home in the village of Santo, in the village of Stefano di Camastra, where he lives in an armed guard.

A 50-year-old may not seem like a typical anti-crime hero; he was a regional director of the bank before he came to politics in 2013.

However, Antoci not only identified the mafia scheme, but also developed a solution: new rules that force even the smallest tenants to carry out police checks, executed retrospectively, with many land confiscation cases. "When you withdraw money from your pockets, it's when the mafia is counter-productive," he says.

The alleged killers of Antoci were not brought to court, and the case was released in September. He was released as the president of the park in the political capital repairs that the new governor of Sicily began this year. "Many in prison to drink a toast," Antoci said at that time. But his actions are now expanded throughout Italy. In 2016, he was named Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, which was the highest glory in Italy, as "a bold commitment to protect the law and against the phenomenon of mafia".

However, he says he underestimated the consequences that this work would have for him and his family. "I will never be the same person after this night." His trousers, who put guns on the street, do not want to invite his three daughters. "This is not their life. I have just fulfilled my duty, but in a normal country you should not risk your life doing it."


Italian Mafia Syndicates estimate an annual turnover of € 150 billion, according to a report by the Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Committee in 2017. That's about 40 billion more than the largest Exor holding company in Italy, which includes Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari. Their influence in the country is still wide; In October, four out of ten Italians interviewed by the Libera Terra consortium said that where they live the mafia "is an alarming phenomenon and its presence is socially dangerous."

In 1991, Prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, who was later killed by the Sicilian Mafia, created the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA), an FBI-style multi-agency agency. Today, it is headed by General Giuseppe Governale, a fair, mustachioed Sicilian who has long struggled with organized crime. The DIA's modern cruise ship DIA offices at the edge of Rome, Governale (59), tells with great joy the mafia history of Sicily.

He points out that in one way or another criminal organizations are always subjected to southern Italy. "By the 20th century there was a system of vassals and feudal lords, with mafia intermediaries who managed the name of the farmers." Mafia clans have long been involved with sheep syringes, and both Toto Riina and Bernardo "The Tractor," Provenzano, the successor to his capo di tutti capi, began as almost unskilled farmer farmers leaving the school before they completed primary education.

In the eighties, with the government continuing, the heroin business moved the attention of the mafia to the cities. "But it's related to the land that binds members of the Mafia syndicate, even if they have divided their tentacles up to the United States, Canada and Australia. They have an extraordinary quasi-religious feeling," he says. "If they were mere organized crime organizations, we would win them". The Italian word for the Mafia clan is cosca, which means artichoke, he explains. "Since the mafia is like artish, all the pages attract the heart."


If the roots of the mafia field make the food industry a natural area, the financial crisis has increased the slipping of crime syndicates in our supermarket trolley and lunch boxes. The credit crisis has led companies to help money-rich mafia. "Italy is the third largest agricultural energy in Europe," says Professor Santino, "but this sector is vulnerable because it is very fragmented and many companies face financial difficulties. The mafia has all their illegal revenues behind them, they lower production costs and can absorb the effects of the crisis. . "

I visited Santino and his wife Anna, also a mafia scientist, in the center of Palermo, where 40 years ago they transformed their home into Italy's first anti-mafia training center, "because people still said that the mafia does not exist." It's named after his friend Giuseppe Impastato, the son of a mafia boss's brother, who was murdered against an activity against the mafia. Their house is a library, from magazines, files, photographs and original court documents stacked from floor to ceiling. In it, 35 folded blue-eyed boxes are sentences issued in the so-called maximum trial of 1987, in which more than 300 mafias were convicted.

Santino links the "significant increase in Mafia's use of land" to reduce the revenue from drug trafficking and the reduction of public money for public procurement contracts. He adds that the penetration of food products also reflects the organization's growing desire to enter legitimate businesses by adopting a form of entrepreneurship.

"Mafia has always been a success with this ability to adapt to the vulnerability of the country," he says. They work at a local office and send their children to the US Law School. "They have become bourgeois."

Roberto Moncalvo, Coldiretti, Head of the Italian Association for the Greater Agriculture Industry: "The main reason why the mafia has grown in this industry is a huge revenue potential." As consumers are more interested in the origin of our food products, agricultural parts have become extremely profitable. For example, with a profit of up to 700 percent, profits from olive oil may be higher than cocaine profits and with much lesser risk.

Monkalkvo says that extension in the agribusiness is also useful for another reason, because "it provides the opportunity to dismiss profits from more traditional companies, such as drug trafficking". Calabria's Ndrangheta Mafia, which controls around 80 percent of Europe's cocaine trade, has so much money that its leaders are willing to accept a loss of up to 50 percent by investing in agriculture to spend money, Governale says. It is believed that many eggs have invested in Italy for the first time about the fleeing mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been around for 25 years now.


Palermo wholesale market opens at 3:00, and after the sunrise, the noise reaches the crescendo, while the dealers who bore the stone of yesteryear stagger the boxes of melon and hollow pearls. The long lines of the three-wheel wagons form thick slices of Sicilian pizza bread.

In August, the police broke into the market. The investigators said there was an "invisible control room" in which the price of goods, transport, porter, parking, transport and packaging materials were determined. One porter who asked to remain anonymous said that the mafia was responsible until the raid. "They will come to our stand once a week and ask for money. People here know who they are and that's why they pay. But the nearby prison did not have to pay for it to be burned and our booth burned."

In recent years, an increasing number of Italian product markets have been subjected to criminal underwater control. Police believe that they even created inter-regional alliances to wreck corrupted materials and the Naples and Sicilian Mafia agreed on a 2016 agreement to impose their companies as suppliers and carriers to and from the largest central Italian wholesale markets.

For consumers, counterfeiting is a major threat. "Falsifying food is now the second most cost-effective company in the EU after drug trafficking," says Chris Vansteenkiste, Europol. "Food is a place for making money. Women buy a handbag every couple of months, but you have to eat every day."

Counterfeit organic food is the most cost-effective area. One operation found that Italian herds imported from Romanian wheat and labeled it as organic, at a price three to four times higher. The segregation of prestigious Italian products such as mozzarella di bufala campana and Parmigiano-Reggiano has become increasingly popular on the market.

The DIA monitors the operations against agromopia by all Italian police and law enforcement forces. Police specialists are working to detect malnutrition, especially olive oil. Their taste buds are considered so precise that opinions in Italian courts are even admissible.

Records reveal incredible and nasty cheating on foods. Mozzarella has been found white with detergent, olive oil mixed with cheap imported North African oils, bread made from asbestos or sawdust, and cheap wine repacked as Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino.

Calabria's Ndrangheta Mafia has so much cash that leaders are willing to accept a loss of up to 50 percent by investing in agriculture to spend money, says Giuseppe Governale, Chief of Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate. Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP / Getty Images

Calabria's Ndrangheta Mafia has so much cash that leaders are willing to accept a loss of up to 50 percent by investing in agriculture to spend money, says Giuseppe Governale, Chief of Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate. Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP / Getty Images

In February last year 42 members of the Piromalli Club were arrested in Armenia and 40 were seized in connection with the export of counterfeit oil to the United States for sale as unprocessed raw and its price is less than 7 euro per liter. Several detainees are now in custody, awaiting trial. According to police data, about 50 percent of all virgin virgin olive oils sold in Italy are cast in cheap, of poor quality oil. The proportion is even larger all over the world.

When food is falsified, says Roberto Moncalvo, the consumer "is not only numb, but also their health is at stake." He adds that the threat of prestige cultural exports is at stake in the Italian identity center. "It's a reputation problem. Italy is known worldwide for good food."


The food chain's infiltration in the Mafia seems to be overwhelmingly comprehensive, but there are durability pockets. In some places farmers are united consortia. In 2003, activist Vincenzo Linarello founded Goel in 2003, which is one of the poorest regions of Europe, uniting 30 unarmed organic farms. Its production sells a premium, but since then, many of its members have been taken by the local Ndrangheta.

"The Mafia wants to deter us so that we can not prove that you can be free and disobedient," says Linarello. "They want to send a message that nothing is possible in Calabria without" Ndrangheta. "He explains how Mob is turning to farmers:" They will ask you to exchange some good things so that some employee can buy their new tractor from it and so. In this way, you gradually lose control of your land, and then you give up. "

In place of the idyllic Ionian shore, A Lanterna produces chillies, olives and lemons. The company has suffered seven crash attacks for seven years, one of which caused a loss of 200,000 euros. Permanent aggression lets you "defeat", says owner Annalisa Fiorenza. "You begin to think, is it worth it?"

A 39-year-old who grew up in the next village and is a lawyer at the Agriculture Ministry, in 2003, when she learned that she was abandoned, bought a farm as a church project with her friends. Attacks are never ahead of any message or request, she says. "No one tells who they are or what they want. They want you to seek protection, choose to submit."

Since joining the Goel Cooperative in 2012, Fiorenza has learned to defend itself through attacks to create publicity and raise funds to restore losses. "Then we throw a huge side to show that it's useless to attack us," she says. "If you're striking one, you are striking everything. The fact that we are together gives us more strength."

Act 1996 for anti-mafia campaigners, which stipulates that land plots and property confiscated by the mafia must be reformed, as community projects have been a major victory. Since then, the mafia has seized 11,000 properties, about one third of them are farms.

The source of Corleone Cosa Nostra and the name of Godfest Don Vito Salvatore Riina's old house is now the basis for the cultivation of 150 hectares of organic tomatoes and legumes, with former drug addicts, people with learning and behavioral problems and refugees. Using the Campi della Legitata program, the co-operative is the sixth creator who volunteers to participate in the farm for two weeks.

Its founder, Calogero Parisi, has a flowing black hair and a cigarette that is almost permanently attached to his lower lip. He tells me he took part in the 90's after he took part in a convoys against a mafia caravan that traveled to Sicily every week. The Riina family farm, which was taken over by the cooperative in 2001, has faced many mobile attacks.

Earth is the power of man, explains Paris. "You can say," All this land is mine? "He says, he remembers how his vines were first burned, then the field of lenses." Then, "he shouts, as if talking about a malicious child," we planted a tree, but they sent their sheep to always graze them the plants would never grow. "

The original landowner was Riina's nephew, Giovanni Grizzaffi. He was released from prison last year more than 20 years ago, and in Paris he says it's uncomfortable, at least, to see him around the city. "Let's say we're not talking terms."

In April, two cooperative tractors, two trailers and a truck of EUR 70 000 were stolen, forcing Paris to receive a loan that would pay five years. Since then, he thought more about abandoning. "We have to work so badly with the organic farm, and we are giving so much sacrifice. On Christmas day, we even sow. Sometimes you wonder if it's worth it."


The final link in the food chain is the restaurants and canteens that provide the main money laundering channel. According to the Observatory, approximately 5,000 restaurants in Italy are in the hands of Moba. It is estimated that the Romans and Milan clans are one in five.

A group of Palermo graduates who wanted to open a pub was shocked to find out that they would have to pay security or pizza. In their view, they founded Addiopizzo (goodbye pizzo), an organization that supports companies that are opposed to the threat of extortion. Active activists Daniele Marannano say: "We spread the whole area with brochures saying," People who pay pizza are people without dignity. "

Calmly spoken Marannano, 33, remembers the day in 1992 when Prosecutor Paolo Borsellino was shot dead with a car bomb in Palermo. "I was eight years old and returned from the beach with my father. We saw my cousin on the street, and he went by car to tell us. I will never forget it. I think that those who lived with it at that age, they had more impact. "

Marandano points to the map describing the families of the Mafia families at the Adandiopizzo headquarters. Many companies that pay are not dependent on fear, but from habit and convenience, he says. "If I am a butcher and another butcher opens up in my area at competitive prices, it will annoy me. If I have paid my pizza, the mafia will go to them and explain:" Amiko, it's a price "?"

Such a visit was received by Nortel Giunta, a well-known chef Palermo, when he opened a new restaurant in 2012. "There were three of them, including one person whom I knew who introduced the introduction." They said that I did not request permission and demanded 2,000 euros per month, as well as twice on Christmas and Easter. "Junta refused to pay. But after He received a visit from a bullet, and then one of his caterpillars was installed in a fire, causing a loss of EUR 100 000. Giunta now has police protection.

Marannano says that when Addiopizzo was launched in 2004, those who dared to report to the police about extortion could count from one side: "Now I can say that people have a choice." The courage of the adversaries, the roots of anti-mafia movements that would not have been imagined before generation, are heartfelt.

But in itself it is unlikely that the clans will be crushed to reduce grip on the ground. In addition to the special law introduced to protect Italian olive oil in 2013, the current legislation against agricultural crime is extremely cautious, with a low risk of criminal offenses.

Elena Fattori, a five-star MP, has proposed a new law that would create a number of new crimes. It would try to punish "public health disasters", poison or contaminate food or water and "agropyracy" – counterfeit food trade. "In Italy, we have a lot of food checks, but have no effect," says Fattori. "The risk is too low: the perpetrators simply pay the money and continue. To protect public health and health [protect] We need to do a lot more to the destruction of honest work. "The deadline for such a law is unclear: the Fattori proposal is not part of a five-star approved government program, whose right-wing coalition partners are the League.

In addition to legislation, consumers can try to buy products with a transparent, ethical background. But the DIA government believes that a longer-term solution is better governance. In his view, in deprived areas where the state does not guarantee fundamental rights or services – from hospital beds to transport workers to farms – people are more likely to become Mobs bosses, not institutions for loans or protection. "At the end of the day, the people are almost in favor of those who calm them.?.?.?.?

"Since 1992, at the investigative level we have

[law and order] has been a leader. But in order to finally win, this is not enough to investigate, we need to improve the level of society. "Otherwise, the mafia becomes secret in every sector." In agriculture, its grip is parasitic, "he says." Mafia is basically a weed and you need a powerful weed killer to kill it. "

Hannah Roberts is a journalist in Rome

© 2018 The Financial Times Ltd.

Source link