Love (and mafia) is in the air! <3

Valéria Levi

What does Scotland have to do with mafia?was the typical, almost mathematically predictable, reply I received from most people in Glasgow every time I talked about the need to raise awareness of mafia in the UK. The underlying conviction shared by many seemed to suggest that mafia does not affect Scotland but is an Italian affair strictly confined within Italian borders. I soon realised that I could answer this scepticism in two possible ways: I could give up the discussion or grab the gauntlet. You see, I am here writing to you, I am sure you can guess which option prevailed in my mind. 

Although Scotland is generally viewed as an uncorrupted, transparent country, nobody would deny that organised crime has roots and affiliations even here. Globalisation and financial interests are known to be decisive motivators in helping organised crime spread across countries. Scholars and common people are comfortable with warranting that different criminal organisations may support one another in order to turn their illegal activities to profit. However, mafia must remain an Italian thing ‘cause in Scotland there is only organised crime.

The idea that Scotland could be immune from mafia but not from organised crime fascinated me in its contradiction. Perhaps, as an Italian, I have a tendency to directly link organised crime with mafia but I was happy to learn that, according to Scottish government’s social research on Serious Organised Crime (2017), my perspective could find some evidence in Scottish terminology.  

The definition given in the survey claims that a criminal group can be labelled “organised crime” when several individuals gather together in a hierarchically organised enterprise who, by means of a common strategy and specialist resources, intends to cause harm and profit from it. Drawing from this assumption it can be argued that mafia is a form of organised crime and, as such, has an impact on Scotland which needs to be recognised. 

If we think saying “organised crime” is fancier than speaking about “mafia”, we are definitely allowed to use the former term rather than the latter but we need to be aware that organised crime includes mafia and mafia has Italian roots but international ramifications. 

Taking the Scottish context, it was Antonio La Torre’s merit, also mentioned in Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, to bring mafia to Scotland. In Aberdeen he ran legitimate businesses, such as restaurants, fitness clubs, pubs, betting shops. He used these places to launder money, illicitly acquired in his native village of Mondragone, until he was arrested in 2005. He was jailed for extortion and racketeering but the problem is that he has been released in 2014 and considering Scottish financial policies, he might be able to start his money-laundering operations again. 

As a study by D. Leask and R. Smith from The Herald (2016) has suggested, Scotland represents a very appealing site for money laundering thanks to Scottish Limited Partnerships (i.e. collaborations between multiple societies registered in Scotland). SLPs beneficiaries make profits in two ways: first, from the possibility of registering anonymously and, second, from the option of not paying taxes, if the activity’s production does not take place in the UK. Needless to say that around 90% SLPs apparentlyproduce offshore and are anonymously managed.

You can now imagine how such state of affairs has been benefitting in the flourishing not only of legal economy but also of fatal attraction on the part of mafia and other criminal organisations, which see Scotland as a tax shelter for investing on allegations of money-laundering.

The government is not the sole actor in the scene, so what can we do? As Scottish citizens we have the duty to denounce SLPs jurisdiction and pressure the government so that it takes action against a system fostering criminal organisations. Besides defending Scotland from illegal infiltrations, these civil actions will take on an ethic value:  they will prove that justice is not only made by judges and lawyers in courts but depends on work and knowledge of the general public. We ought not to follow the footsteps of all those who worked for Antonio La Torre, namely pushers and stakeholders in Mondragone but also waiters, barmen, fitness instructors, chefs in Aberdeen; people who knew they were working for a mafia boss but did not care about it. If mafia and organised crime find a fertile ground in Scotland, it is because of Scottish policies and people allow for this (as I understand, ignorantly for many). Crime can be transplanted from a place to another but is not strong enough to grow up on its own. Let’s not shut our eyes to evidence and speak about it now. Let’s show mafia we care. I told you love (and mafia) was in the air!


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