Organized crime syndicates spark concern in Germany

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German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) have warned against the growing societal influence of organized crime syndicates in Germany.

Sabine Vogt, director of the BKA division for serious and organized crime, told the newspaper “Focus” that citizens often underestimated the extent to which different mafia groupings had infiltrated their country.

“Many are unware how much power the mafia has,” Vogt said. She added that criminal syndicates made relentless efforts to “infiltrate society and harm the economy.”

According to the report, the police were aware of around 590 mafia members across Germany in 2017. The figure marked a dramatic increase compared to 2007, when the number was only estimated at 136 individuals.

Two groups in particular recorded rapid growth in Germany during the past years. The Sicilian “Cosa Nostra” saw its membership shoot up by 520 percent to a total of 125 individuals, while the Calabrian “‘Ndrangheta” witnessed a 455 percent increase making it the largest Italian crime syndicate with a total of 353 members in 51 subgroups.

By contrast, the German branch of the famous “Camorra” group from Naples only counted 91 members.

However, Vogt emphasized to “Focus” that the figures were “highly volatile” and could only ever offer a “snapshot”. Although the BKA had been investigating criminal syndicates closely for years, there was also likely to be a high dark figure of people not recognized as mafia members by the agency.

The BKA director explained that crime syndicates had an interest in infiltrating a range of economic and political institutions, including public administrations and agencies.

“One must be very sensitive wherever there are big lucrative public projects and approval processes,” Vogt cautioned. Mafia groups were accustomed to exercising their influence in subtle ways, for example through invitations to restaurants or donations to sports associations.

“These seeming gestures of friendship often have a very different background,” the BKA director told “Focus”. Once an individual was caught in the grasp of criminal syndicates it was very difficult to escape, but the government did offer special programmes to protect “mafia victims who were willing to testify.”

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