Not just a term: anti-mafia is a legislation

la legislazione anti-mafia

Anti-mafia is a word that encompasses a complex system of laws. Mafias are not fought with opinions but with the culture of law. It is a continuous, ten-year development that faces constant updates because mafias and the problems they pose are not static and crystallised in time but change with great complexity and speed. La legislazione antimafia (The anti-mafia legislation) is a volume of over 1,200 pages edited by Professors Enrico Mezzetti and Luca Lupária Donati (Zanichelli), together with over thirty contributors, which deals with all the legislation, commenting on it and explaining it. Mezzetti is Professor of Criminal Law and Commercial Criminal Law in the Department of Jurisprudence of the University of Roma Tre, and Professor of Anti-mafia Law and Legislation at the Carabinieri Officer School of Rome. With Professor Mezzetti, we deal not only with the fight against organised crime but with the very meaning of anti-mafia legislation.

I ask you a direct and no-nonsense question, apparently simple, but which hides a multiplicity of possible answers: what does mafia mean?

First of all, perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘mafias’, in the plural, given that the present conformation and finality of the ‘Ndrangheta, for example, with its system of ‘local’ formations and its capacity of propagation on the territory, does not resemble, at all, the other mafia structures, like the traditional and historical Sicilian one. Furthermore, it is necessary to take into account also the foreign mafias that operate in Italy, such as the Chinese, Russian and Nigerian mafia, which has induced the Legislator to modify the heading of the Art. 416 bis Criminal Code with the Law N° 125 of 2008, inserting in the heading of the Art. 416 bis, the express reference to the “Mafia-type associations, also involving foreigners”.

Mafia, or mafia-type phenomenon, means associated criminal associations organised in a hierarchical and quasi-military manner, dedicated to carrying out a criminal programme of offences resulting from the organisation’s illegal activity. From being a criminal organisation subversive of the democratic order and of the constitutional structures of the State, it has gradually transformed itself into a criminal phenomenon of ‘criminal enterprise’ which – by infiltrating the State’s organs and society and camouflaging itself in its folds – tends to carry out operations of distortion of the economic and financial activities, also through the control of public contracts and public works, effectively altering the regime of competition. Finally, another recently emerged aspect concerns the mafia political electoral exchange, aimed at conditioning electoral consultations to acquire illicit economic or institutional advantages.

Why is Italy the only country to have the word Mafia in its legal system? Is this a stigma or an advantage in being able to fight this particular criminal phenomenon? But, above all, by introducing the word mafia in the Criminal Code, what benefits would a foreign country have?

Italy is the only country to have the word mafia in its juridical system because this term has assumed a clear technical-juridical significance which has required the introduction of ad hoc legislation, which is lacking in other countries. Over time, the word has also acquired derogatory connotations about actions and criminal protagonists among the most dangerous in the society, coming to constitute, albeit negatively, in the collective imagination, also at an international level, a typical characteristic of our Country. The advantages consist in the rigorous provision of criminal offences that must be enforced according to the principle of strict legality, with the legislation specially envisaged for this particular criminal phenomenon entailing very severe measures of restriction of personal liberty, including preventive measures. The other countries should also adapt their legislation – as the phenomenon is now cross-border and, therefore, to be fought in a broader territory than the domestic one – to apply criminal jurisdiction homogeneously in an international perspective. The lack of express provision of the crime of mafia association, lacking the bilateral prevision of the fact, risks complicating the recourse to extradition and the use of instruments such as the European Arrest Warrant or the International Capture Warrant.

Mafias are fast. They circumvent laws, knowing how to interpret them and camouflaging themselves within the same folds. Is our anti-mafia legislation sufficient and fast enough to counteract the phenomenon?

Probably yes, although it is always improvable. The defect, which becomes a barrier, is at the international level, where a special legislation is lacking. And episodes like the massacre of Duisburg in Germany, or the spreading infiltrative presence of the ‘Ndrangheta in the City of London, demonstrate the obsolescence of the present measures of contrast in the international judicial cooperation.

The work of commentary and explanation of anti-mafia legislation directed by your colleague, Luca Lupària Donati, is monumental. How much is pure academic interest in tackling such a demanding task, and how much civil passion? How can we bring the two worlds into dialogue so that civil passion is not just an opinion but becomes an avenue for studies and vice versa?

I would say both. The editorial attempt that we have made with Mr Lupària and the entire vast group of co-authors – university professors, lawyers, magistrates, and civil servants – was precisely that of trying to open a fruitful dialogue between the various sectors of the society, as legal operators, so that they could ‘talk’ to each other to identify common plans of reflection and possible instruments of counteraction to the mafia phenomenon, from the juridical point of view, as well as political-institutional and economic-financial.

Thanks to Professor Daniele Piva, the Department of Law of the Roma Tre University has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Anti-Mafia Commission. What does a protocol of this magnitude propose, and what are the possible objectives?

To carry out in-depth research, aimed at scientifically studying the genesis of the criminal phenomenon – to identify the causes – which indeed depend also on deficits in the social structures – to research the lines of development – to identify possible remedies in the socio-political, rather than legal, sphere – to carry out statistical-criminological research to corroborate the conclusions and make them available to the bicameral Antimafia Commission as a representative of the Institutions and civil society; these are some of the critical aims. Furthermore, the University of Roma Tre is one of the few to have activated, for some years now, the specialistic course in Anti-mafia Law and Legislation, to sensitise also the young people on the central issues that our Country is facing.

A provocative question: we have all the laws at our disposal, the best legal minds at work, inside and outside the courtrooms, and yet the mafias seem to be an unbeatable enemy or at least one that resists the blows that are continually inflicted; why can’t we win once and for all?

The ability of mafias to camouflage themselves, their growth at a professional level, the speed with which they carry out their operations, making the most of the opportunities that the welfare state provides – such as subsidies, economic aid or incentives – together with the complacency, if not the cooperation or, sometimes the complicity of civil society, make the fight difficult, but many steps forward have been taken, and we are currently heading in the right direction.

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