Alleged fraud concerning EU Funds: the Mafia trials

Sabrina Pignedoli MEP
Tower with euro coins and flag of European Union in the background.

Brussels (Brussels Morning) I am glad that in the European Parliament we are talking about mafias, in the plural, because they represent more than one element. In Italy, there are already different types of mafia, which have their own peculiarities. But there are not only Italian mafias. It is essential to underline the fact that mafias are not only an Italian problem.

Firstly, because there are mafias from other countries, secondly because Italian mafias are increasingly working in all EU Member States. This is why I believe that this is a European problem that needs to be tackled in a European way.

I am also pleased that, nowadays, we are talking about mafias concerning fraud with European funds. This allows us to see an aspect that is very often underestimated, that is, mafias do not only have folkloric or violent aspects, like the one in the movie “The Godfather”. The mafias have evolved and diversified, and have been able to enter the social and economic fabric of the various member states. 

Through the studies of fraud against European funds and the mafias, we have identified certain recurring aspects. For example, the mafias’ powers of intimidation used to grab lands to access agricultural funds, the use of money for corruption or the infiltration into the institutional fabric of a country, because we must keep in mind that the mafias do not operate where they do not have solid institutional relations.

Then, there is also a new aspect on which we should focus, how mafias use the white collars to be able to carry out all the bureaucratic procedures to seize European funds. They need complacent professionals who allow them to access these funds and bypass the controls.

For these reasons, I wanted the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office to be given more prominence in the European Parliament. I believe that this organisation, working at its optimum, can coordinate, support and give impetus to mafia investigations in Italy. Why not use it as a starting point to create a similar body at the European level?

It should be remembered that the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office was the brainchild of Giovanni Falcone, who the mafia killed in the early 1990s, and who always stressed the importance of “follow the money” to understand mafia connections.

Falcone understood from the beginning the importance of coordination at the national level to fight the mafia, rejecting the idea that it mafia was only a regional phenomenon. He already realised that the mafia was a phenomenon that affected the whole of Italy and beyond. 

As early as 1990, at a meeting in Germany at the BKA, Falcone spoke of the importance of fighting the mafia through coordination between member states, precisely because of the transnational nature of the mafia phenomenon. 

Following in Falcone’s footsteps, I believe that, as representatives of the European institutions, we must try to understand this problem in all of its forms and react at the European level. It is in the financial interest of the European Union, but above all, it is in the interest of our citizens and our democracy.

The Recovery Fund, with its 750 billion euro of investments, represents a great opportunity for the recovery of the European economy but also a very coveted booty for the mafias. During the public hearing, promoted and organised by the 5 Star Movement, which was held in the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, it has clearly emerged that the problem of infiltration of organised crime affects not only Italy but also other countries traditionally considered to be less contaminated, such as the north, and Eastern Europe because there is a great undervaluation and fewer controls.

It is necessary to recognise in the Member States the crime of mafia-type association, as set out in Article 416-bis of the Italian Criminal Code. In this way, it will be easier to counter the appetites of the mafias, not only the Italian ones, for European funds with the possibility of introducing mechanisms such as the ‘white list’ at European level, so that the beneficiaries of the funds are effectively controlled. The European Union must not, even unintentionally, give a gift to the mafias.

About Us

Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
Share This Article
Sabrina Pignedoli is an Italian politician and Member of the European Parliament since 2019.