Italian mafia thriving in Europe, prosecutor says

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ROME, Oct 9 (Reuters) The Calabrian mafia is thriving in Europe because of a lack of a common policy to fight organised crime, a top Italian anti-mafia magistrate warned.

Nicola Gratteri, a prosecutor who has been investigating the mafia killing of six Italians in Germany in August, said the Calabrian organisation known as 'Ndrangheta was like a multinational company with branches ''in every continent''.

He said the 'Ndrangheta, which is now a major world player in cocaine trafficking and has an estimated turnover of 30 billion euros (42.28 billion dollars), was present in the United States, Canada, Australia and Latin America.

In Europe, it has gained a firm foothold in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain, helped by the launch of the single market which allows people to travel freely within the European Union, he said.

''Europe should realise that the mafia is not merely an Italian problem, it is now a problem for the whole of the Western world,'' he said.

''The people of the 'Ndrangheta move between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany like I move around in my own city,'' he told a group of foreign journalists.

The six Italians were gunned down outside a pizzeria in the city of Duisburg, the latest chapter in a 16-year feud between two 'Ndrangheta clans in the small Calabrian town of San Luca.

The killings shocked Germany, showing how powerful the 'Ndrangheta had grown there. Some of the victims had spent most or all their life in Germany and the co-owner of the pizzeria was one of 33 people arrested in Italy over the murders.

''You don't improvise an operation like that, it means you are firmly established and integrated in a country,'' Gratteri said, adding that cooperation between police and magistrates in different countries was hampered by the lack of common judicial and investigative procedures.

Italian prosecutors, for example, make extensive use of phone taps, something not allowed in other countries.

''In Germany, the crime of mob association does not exist (in the penal code), and wire-taps in public places are prohibited, so how can you know what goes on in a pizzeria?'' said Gratteri.

''Since the Duisburg killings, I have not seen anyone in Europe modify their codes and procedures. I have the impression that people have lost interest, that there is not a lot of awareness,'' he said.

''We cooperate better with Colombia than with some European countries,'' he said.


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