Jan Kuciak. Mistery surrounding the warnings from Italy

Why did the chief of the Slovakian police deny that warnings had been received from Italian judges concerning the ‘Ndrangheta structures?
Investigations taking place in Slovakia to find those responsible of the killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend are turning into an intricate legal thriller that will be hopefully solved soon. The case arose on 3 March 2018, when the Slovakian Public Prosecutor and the Police Commissioner, Tibo Gaspar, denied having received any information from Italy in recent years about the criminal activity of some Italian members of the ‘Ndrangheta in Eastern Slovakia.

Tibor Gaspar openly contradicted declarations from the Italian judge Gaetano Paci, Public Prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, who said “to have long warned the international and Slovakian law enforcement authorities about the urgency of monitoring the criminal activities of a group of Calabrese people”. Those individuals were arrested on 1 March 2018 as the main suspects for the two killings although released two days later.

The Slovakian police chief later added a detail that, however, seems to contradict his previous negative declarations: “In February 2014 we had sent a formal and urgent inquiry asking for information to the Italian police. The detective had to ask twice for a reply and we finally got it in October 2015”. When, then, did they receive the warnings from Italy?

This and other circumstances should be clarified in the next days. The FBI and other international experts are already collaborating to the investigations and they will be probably joined by the Italian police, EUROPOL and Scotland Yard.

According to media reports, the Italian judges had asked for the monitoring of the movements of some of the individuals that have been arrested and then released. The magistrate in Reggio Calabria did not comment on the release but assured that “The Regional Anti-mafia Directorate in Reggio Calabria will continue to investigate on all ‘Ndrangheta groups in Europe whenever elements that deserve further attention will arise”. The main suspects for the Italian police are “some family members or persons having strong ties with mafia clans in Bova Maria and Africa Nuovo”, two small towns in Calabria, Prosecutor Paci explained on 1 March. Suspicion rose when “suddenly, they had started holding positions with a huge economic and business value in Slovakia in the domain of alternative energies, agriculture and livestock”.

“Also in Slovakia, according to the information from the first phase of investigation – the prosecutor added- it seems that the ‘Ndrangheta model’ is capable of creating collusive arrangements with some political and administrative environments and taking advantages in a distorting and decisive way of local powers where the ‘Ndrangheta members settle. Enquiries conducted in Northern Europe had already revealed this phenomenon. We are now having confirmation about the expansion of the ‘Ndrangheta and its corrupting methods in Eastern Europe. There, they do not have specific laws and specific practices that have been developed in Italy to effectively fights against the ‘Ndrangheta”.

Some months ago, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate had highlighted in a written report that the ‘Ndrangheta was developing some presence and relationships in Slovakia.

“New commercial outlets that have been created following the globalisation of markets could attract the expansionistic ambitions of Italian criminal organisations towards some Eastern countries, such as the Slovakian Republic. Indeed, such organisations are always searching for new markets for money laundering purposes”. It should be mentioned that the investigative exchange of information with the Slovakian enforcement officers dealt with “companies and individuals linked to the ‘Ndrangheta which were particularly active in the money laundering through financial transactions abroad”.

Nicola Gratteri, Public Prosecutor in Catanzaro, one of the leading experts on the international expansion of the ‘Ndrangheta, said that the killing of the Slovakian journalist and his girlfriend had “likely” seen the involvement of the criminal organisation. “The ‘Ndrangheta – Gratteri said on 1 March- is well established, not just having occasional links, in Italy but has enlarged to embrace other European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland with a stronger presence in Eastern Europe with ties in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. The ‘Ndrangheta is indeed expanding in the East. It usually goes where there is power and money and a chance to manage them. The mafia is buying land to plant vineyards and other products. Their purpose is to obtain European funds. This phenomenon happens in Italy as well as in other countries. It is a big issue that the European Union does not have a specific law to address the corruption coming from the mafia and the ‘Ndrangheta in particular. In Europe, the presence of the mafia has not been recognised for decades. The proof is that some EU countries are not willing to adopt any law to protect themselves for this expansion in the way that Italy has done. They are still discussing whether to introduce the crime of mafia conspiracy in their legal systems”.

This crime, which in Italy was introduced in 13 September 1982 by law 646, provided the judiciary with a very effective legal instrument to fight against the mafia enabling them to prosecute and punish not only the executors but also those who give the mandate to commit and act in order to ensure their impunity. Moreover, the law which established this crime has allowed the confiscation of profits from illicit trafficking with very impressive results.

“The European Union should harmonise penal and criminal procedure codes on the basis of the Italian legislation but by excluding the prison system that does not work well. When discussing about the creation of a European Prosecutor’s Office, my concern is that creating common and shared standards with the EU Member States would mean lowering the level of protection. That would be very dangerous because Italy would loose a century of successful fight against the mafia. I will not stop raising my voice if harmonising would lead to a lowering of the level of protection”, Gratteri added.

In his articles, Kuciak had reported about four Calabrian families affiliated to the ‘Ndrangheta, namely Vadalà, Rodà, Cinnante and Catroppa, allegedly involved in murky businesses in the agricultural, photovoltaic, biogas and real estate sectors.

ASP (if)

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