Why the mafia believes in Denmark. And how Denmark has made them a fortune

Reading the news in Denmark is a more cheerful affair than in many countries. Topping happiness metrics, winning the handball, overcoming inequality: it’s all rosy here – not rotten at all.

It can also sometimes feel just a little boring.

Morten Beiter, the author of ‘Mafiaen Kommer’, a book warning of the Italian mafia’s tentacular reach around Europe, has done his best to counter this trend.

Shortly after the book’s publication in 2016, he was contacted by workers at the company 3F, who alerted him to suspicious companies operating railway construction in Aarhus and Copenhagen.

His subsequent investigation, together with colleague Klaus Wivel, revealed links between two ‘Ndrangheta – Calabrian mafia – clans and certain companies that had won contracts to work on these projects, sending shockwaves through Denmark.

The Mafia had already arrived, it seemed.

Under the carpet
One thing that struck Beiter in the wake of the 3F investigation, however, was how quickly interest in the possibility of the mafia operating in Denmark waned.

“I think an MP raised it in parliament and the police opened an investigation,” says Beiter. “It took them about two weeks to close it again.

“There were some searches in a pizzeria in Copenhagen – they found nothing. There was very little knowledge of the Italian Mafia at the time – apart from what they had learned from ‘The Godfather’.

“For example, there did not seem to be any common knowledge that the Italian mafia is not one organization, but a lot of different organizations from different cultures. The lack of basic knowledge was troubling to me. It’s sad to say, but I was a little worried when they closed the investigation.

Who cares anyway?
So far, Denmark appears to have been relatively resistant to mafia infiltration compared to other EU states such as Germany and the Netherlands. Then again, if there is no violence on the streets and no consideration of potential money laundering, how can we be sure?

“People know something is going on,” says Beiter. “But as long as there is no shooting or violence going on, they prefer that the politicians do nothing about it.

“That’s also the general feeling, and that’s my feeling too, because we did that research in 2016, but that was also the general impression,” he continued.

“Later I heard there were no resources—there wasn’t a lot of interest in doing non-violent crime investigations, you know. So as long as there’s no one shooting on the street, organized criminals have a degree of freedom.”

The ‘Ndrangheta continues to grow
It is no surprise that it was the ‘Ndrangheta that was first unearthed here in Denmark: the Calabrian organization now operates on all continents.

Nicola Gratteri is one of the most important figures in the fight against organized crime in Italy and he is from the region of Calabria and specializes in the ‘Ndrangheta.

Not only is he the judge presiding over the biggest mafia trial in Italy for 30 years, he also publishes books and conducts in-depth investigations into the Calabrian clans.

Beiter himself has spoken to Gratteri many times, most recently last year The weekend newspaper.

Through his investigations, Gratteri discovered that the ‘Ndrangheta has become the most powerful and richest of the Italian syndicates.

Hush hush
One advantage the ‘Ndrangheta has – even compared to other Italian mafia organizations – is its low profile. It has a history of kidnappings, which is how it started making big money, but the last of those was in 1998, after which the organization slipped into relative anonymity.

Some people, even in Italy, believed that it had slowly disintegrated and was no longer a relevant power.

The reality was exactly the opposite. In the cocaine trade, the ‘Ndrangheta had found its golden goose: it no longer needed the ransom from kidnappings. From the 80s onwards, the firm had fostered direct links with South American drug cartels, and by the early 2000s business in Europe had exploded.

Today, the ‘Ndrangheta is estimated by Gratteri to control 80 percent of the European cocaine trade. It has achieved this while remaining the most mysterious and under-reported Italian crime syndicate. It is said to operate on every continent on the globe and collects over 50 billion euros a year.

Denmark and Europe
But why is all this relevant to little old Denmark? If the ‘Ndrangheta had decided to come here, surely there would be signs, wouldn’t there? The 3F survey was probably just a one off event after which they decided to pack up and go home.

According to Beiter, it is not that simple. Part of what makes it difficult to thwart criminal organizations on an international level is the open nature of the EU.

A combination of the free flow of people, money and businesses, as well as a lack of specific legislation against organized crime, has made it a fertile breeding ground for the mafia in Europe.

“That’s the problem. We want to trade with each other and make it easy for money to flow from country to country, but in doing so we also facilitate a free market for organized crime,” explained Beiter.

“Gratteri told me that in Germany you can’t set up microphones in a public area. It’s associated with the Second World War and the Cold War and so on. In Spain you can’t search a room before dawn or while it’s still dark , and it has something to do with fascism and Franco and so on. Italy is the only country where it is a crime in itself to be a member of the mafia.”

In the shadows
“It is very difficult to catch them. Bilateral operations are possible, but they must start from scratch each time they begin an investigation. So there really should be a centralized police force that collects information that can be reused and so on,” Beiter continued.

In Denmark and in Europe in general, the laundering of dirty money acquired through illegal means, such as the sale of drugs, is often overlooked or misunderstood. Sometimes there is simply not that much interest in it.

“It is a bit worrying that no one asked questions in Denmark after the 3F case. They just thought about the money: ‘This is cheap, let’s go with this company’. In Denmark they pretend they don’t know what’s going on in Italy, maybe they really don’t.”

The problem is neither violence nor kidnapping, it is the corruption that launders the alleys; the myth of ‘the mafia creates jobs’.

Europe’s washing machines
Beiter is concerned about the lack of interest in money that could have been obtained through illegal means. Companies are happy as long as the work they’re paying for gets done, and they’re especially happy if they can pay less for it.

This is how mafia groups work: They are able to offer contracts at affordable prices because their profits largely come from the insanely lucrative cocaine trade. Their biggest problems are not profit and loss, but simply how to convert their rooms full of cash into legitimate capital.

This is how the ‘Ndrangheta has infiltrated the social structure of northern Italy. In the north, as in northern Europe today, people used to scoff at the idea of ​​the mafia taking root. The general opinion was that it was ‘just something between the southerners – it won’t happen here’.

This was a mistake. Imperceptibly at first, the ‘Ndrangheta insinuated itself into building societies, hospitals and politics. Now, in northern Italy, the battle is definitely lost.

What to do?
“The best way would be to recognize that we have a problem. We should meet with the other European countries and see how we can solve this problem together with common legislation and also a unified police force – a specialized police force.”

Beiter proposes a kind of European FBI that could keep records and fight organized crime over long periods of time. “But I don’t think this can ever happen in Denmark: the idea of ​​a foreign police that comes in from outside and overrules the Danish police,” he adds. “I don’t think that can ever happen.”

“What we really need to do is adopt the Italian anti-mafia system. So let’s say we do this FBI in Europe, it would have to include a lot of Italians in the system because they have the knowledge and they have what it takes. The Italians really should be the teachers of this system. You can say you have Europol, but it’s more like a coordinating institution.”

Where are we now?
So where does Beiter feel we can go from here?

“We are at a crossroads and we have to decide to become more united and be a more united Europe, or retreat, because where we are now is not a good place to be. I think we should go ahead and create a more efficient and united Europe, that’s my opinion.

“I don’t think it’s functional to stay where we are right now. Of course, Brexit didn’t help. If we stay where we are, it will only create more confusion. You can’t cross a river and just stop in the middle and stay there – you just get colder and colder. You have to cross over to the other side or go back where you came from,” Beiter argued.

“We cannot discuss the mafia in the form of gunfights in the streets. Today, the mafia invests in wind turbines, tourism, whatever. Where there is money to be made, you will find the mafia. You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but it’s there, and it’s eating our economy from the inside. It’s depressing, but I don’t think anyone is going to do anything about it because there are no voices in it.”

Source: The Nordic Page

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