Brexit could help Italian mafia create "truly dangerous" situation, warns public prosecutor Gratteri

Nicola Gratteri

Katie For­ster BREXIT COULD work to the advan­ta­ge of the Ita­lian mafia and other orga­ni­sed cri­me groups, one of Italy's most respec­ted anti-mafia pro­se­cu­tors has war­ned. Nico­la Grat­te­ri said the UK, and in par­ti­cu­lar Lon­don, is alrea­dy seen by gang­sters as a safe pla­ce to inve­st illi­cit funds – a situa­ton that risks beco­ming “tru­ly dan­ge­rous” when the coun­try lea­ves the EU. Britain’s cor­po­ra­te and finan­cial system makes it “a pla­ce whe­re the­re are effi­cient ser­vi­ces to crea­te com­plex cor­po­ra­te struc­tu­res for the sole pur­po­se of pro­ces­sing dir­ty money,” he told Il Sole 24 Ore.

The rela­ti­ve lack of regu­la­tion and bureau­cra­cy in the UK has made it attrac­ti­ve to forei­gn inve­stors, said Mr Grat­te­ri, chief pro­se­cu­tor in the Can­tan­za­ro region of Cala­bria in sou­thern Ita­ly. Howe­ver, the coun­try has also attrac­ted tax eva­ders and tho­se who wish to set up shell com­pa­nies as a faca­de for cri­mi­nal acti­vi­ty, he war­ned, say­ing this could beco­me wor­se after the coun­try lea­ves the EU. “If the pro­cess of the UK lea­ving the EU brings with it a wea­ke­ning of co-ope­ra­tion regar­ding poli­ce and legal mat­ters, and of the chan­nels used to exchan­ge infor­ma­tion on finan­cial and tax mat­ters, a situa­tion that is alrea­dy favou­ra­ble to the mafia could be tran­sfor­med into a tru­ly dan­ge­rous sce­na­rio,” he said.

“The mafia, ter­ro­ri­sm, drug traf­fic­king and money laun­de­ring are inter­na­tio­nal threa­ts, and as such requi­res a coor­di­na­ted respon­se. “Bre­xit could defi­ni­te­ly make a ran­ge of tools and judi­cial agree­men­ts use­less, which now are the base of co-ope­ra­tion which, whi­le not easy, has led to a good num­ber of suc­ces­ses.” Amber Rudd has vowed to end London’s repu­ta­tion as a haven for “cri­mi­nals and cor­rupt klep­to­cra­ts” after the Natio­nal Cri­me Agen­cy esti­ma­ted £90bn is laun­de­red throu­gh Lon­don each year. Nego­tia­tions bet­ween Bri­tain and the EU must not risk the Euro­pean Arre­st War­rant or UK access to orga­ni­sa­tions like Euro­pol or Euro­ju­st, said Mr Grat­te­ri.

The 59-year-old, who has writ­ten books about the mafia, gave a num­ber of exam­ples of UK acti­vi­ty of the 'Ndran­ghe­ta, the orga­ni­sed cri­me group cen­tred in Cala­bria. The­se inclu­ded reports of a Mila­ne­se accoun­tant who was arre­sted in 2012 in Lon­don, whe­re he had set up a com­pa­ny used by a ‘Ndran­ghe­ta clan to laun­der mil­lions of Euros, and simi­lar arrests the fol­lo­wing year in which one suspect lived half an hour from Buc­kin­gham Pala­ce. A Bra­zi­lian woman who lived near Lon­don was also found to be invol­ved in pro­ces­sing money for Ita­lian cocai­ne smug­glers, he said. Govern­ment pro­po­sals to stem the flow of cri­mi­nal money throu­gh the Bri­tish capi­tal could be being held up by Rus­sian autho­ri­ties, repor­ted The Guar­dian. The crac­k­do­wn inclu­des a new anti-money laun­de­ring wat­ch­dog, which will sit within the exi­sting Finan­cial Con­duct Autho­ri­ty, it was announ­ced last month.