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Infiltration into the legal economy: the advanced stage of organised crime in Italy

By June 24, 2024July 1st, 2024No Comments

Monday 24 June 2024

Risks, remedies and alliances to combat the phenomenon discussed at the Conference organised by Transcrime (Research Centre of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) and ANFACI 

Milan, 21 March 2024 – A one-day conference entitled ‘The dynamics of criminal infiltration in the economy: risks and remedies’ (Le dinamiche delle infiltrazioni criminali nell’economia: rischi e rimedi) was held today at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. The initiative, organised by Transcrime, the Research Centre on Crime and Innovation of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and ANFACI (National Association of Civil Administration Officials of the Interior – Associazione Nazionale Funzionari Amministrazione Civile dell’Interno) brought together researchers, prefects, magistrates, representatives of businesses and banks, historians and journalists to discuss challenges and measures to counter criminal infiltration strategies in lawful markets, an evolved form of organised crime in Italy. 

Despite the significant results achieved and the skills acquired, there are still entanglements to be countered and better known, said Prefect Ignazio Portelli, State Commissioner for the Sicilian Region President of ANFACI, introducing the conference. The fight against infiltration is an obstacle course and does not always achieve the due and expected results for multiple causes. It is, however, always an ethical and moral duty to work to raise the furrow of legality even deeper. 

The topic of criminal wealth and its use in the legal economy is not adequately perceived in its relevance, explains Prof. Ernesto Ugo Savona, Director of Transcrime. The aim of this Conference is to broaden the understanding of these topics and to promote the awareness of the country system, to strengthen cooperation between the actors involved, and to raise the awareness of businesses in risk assessment and threat reporting. Moreover, 30 years after the birth of Transcrime, the support of research proves to be central in defining risk factors and transferring them into technologies and intelligence initiatives to support the prevention capacity of authorities and companies. 

The fight against mafias in Italy still focuses on identifying and convicting the perpetrators of crimes, leaving economic investigations of mafia wealth in the background. However, criminal prosecution alone has shown little deterrent or re-educational effect. To support its ability to inhibit criminal organisations, the speakers, including National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor Giovanni Melillo, discussed the support for criminal prosecution of prefects’ interdiction orders – which are instrumental in depriving mafias of the resources that guarantee their continuity – academic research – in the development of risk indicators innovative tools for analysing big data – and the collaboration of banks and companies. 

The effectiveness of interdictions has been able to stem the intensive exploitation of companies for criminal purposes, while ensuring their continuity of production. This effectiveness is undermined, however, by the low number of seizure and confiscation measures for illicit assets abroad: to the thousands of asset measures in Italy, there are only a few dozen abroad1, according to data collected as part of the European RECOVER project, in which Transcrime is a partner. This represents a further incentive for the internationalisation of mafias. 

Criminal organisations adapt to this scenario by adopting increasingly complex corporate structures. There is a need to develop technologies and risk indicators capable of detecting anomalies in corporate activities and structures. A research conducted by Transcrime for PoliS-Lombardia2, with the support of the Prefecture of Milan, has shown the effectiveness of this tool by applying 30 indicators of anomalies to over one million companies in Lombardy, relating to ownership structure, top management, territorial context, economic-financial activity, political exposure and negative events or journalistic leaks3. During the validation phase, explains Prof. Francesco Calderoni of the Università Cattolica and Transcrime researcher, the indicators demonstrated the ability to correctly identify a sample of disqualified companies with up to 25 times the probability of misidentification, by applying advanced machine learning techniques. Using risk indicators, a Transcrime survey was able to detect, analysing Italian companies with changes of ownership during the Covid-19 emergency, a number of opaque company forms more than 10 times higher than the average for other Italian companies, and a value 5 times higher of links with risky jurisdictions. 

The entrepreneurial evolution of mafias determines distorting effects on competition, the costs of which fall on the community. The entrepreneur, initially a victim of coercion, stresses Milan Public Prosecutor Alessandra Dolci, eventually establishes a connivance with the mafia enterprise, which is able to guarantee services at extremely convenient prices. In this new context, the fight requires the use of new IT platforms that contain information of interest, which is currently contained in databases that do not communicate with each other. Innovative tools and technologies that are also indispensable in the banking and financial sector, says Dr. Maria Giacona, Head of the Bank of Italy’s Institutional Supervisory Relations Service, to fulfil the increasingly complex obligations imposed by regulations and the stringent controls for the prevention of criminal infiltration. 

In this regard, explains Prof. Michele Riccardi, deputy director of Transcrime, in several European projects, such as DATACROS, KLEPTOTRACE or INVERT, Transcrime is developing advanced tools precisely together with the authorities, to improve their ability to promptly identify high-risk subjects or companies, reconstruct complex networks of relations, and trace international criminal patterns. These tools are also adapted and applied by banks and companies to improve their ability to prevent money laundering activities among customers and criminal infiltration of the supply-chain. 

Through the use of these advanced predictive models and the partnership between the public, private and research worlds, says Dr Enrico Pirastru, Head of Security at Fincantieri, it is possible to determine a cascade effect involving the entire supply chain and the network of partners attributable to each company, protecting the private sector from the mimetic, adaptive and highly competitive capacity of organised crime 

Risks not only economic and reputational, but also of business interruption, adds Dr. Andrea Pizzoli, Risk & Compliance Director Fiera Milano, make it necessary to control the network of suppliers to oversee every phase, from engagement, to the physical control of access, to the execution of services, especially in sectors that are more exposed to risks, for example due to the high incidence of labour. 

The recent history of the Anti-Mafia, says journalist Marcelle Padovani, cannot be separated from the analysis of its manifestations not only on national soil, but also internationally, particularly in Europe and America, where the bodies in charge of repression study and take as a model the Italian laws and techniques for combating mafia associations 

The complex nature of these organisations, explains Leoluca Orlando, former mayor of Palermo, involves actors and activities in the legislative, judicial, political, social, cultural, religious, economic and information sectors, as evidenced by recent chronicles. Chronicle that, especially in Sicily, provides a framework for future choices and actions. 

These issues were also discussed with other representatives from the world of universities and research, prefects (including Darco Pellos, Prefect of Venice; Bruno Corda, Prefect and Director of ANBSC; and Laura Lega, Prefect Segr. Gen. ANFACI and Head of Dept. per le Libertà Civili e l’Immigrazione del Ministero dell’Interno), magistrates (including Vincenzo Salamone, President of the Campania Regional Administrative Court; Fabio Roia, President of the Court of Milan; and Maurizio de Lucia, District Prosecutor of Palermo), representatives of companies and banks (including Massimo Ferrari, General Manager Webuild; and Arianna Rovetto, Anti-Money Laundering Manager Banco BPM), writers (Isaia Sales), journalists (including Luigi Ferrarella and Conchita Sannino) and other experts. Full list available on the programme (here). 




Transcrime and Crime&tech – Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore 

Transcrime ( ) is the inter-university centre on crime and innovation of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna and University of Perugia. It is the leading research hub in Italy and Europe in the study of organised and financial crime. Founded in 1994, it has conducted more than 300 projects at national and international level collaborating among others with the United Nations, the European Commission, Europol, supervisory authorities and police forces in Italy and abroad. 

The university spin-off Crime&tech ( ) translates Transcrime’s research into crime prevention solutions for the public and private sector, developing analyses, solutions and tools to assess, prevent and reduce crime and security risks, and is a leading provider of risk indicators for reconstructing complex corporate structures and identifying anomalies in third parties (customers and suppliers). 

Associazione Nazionale Funzionari Amministrazione Civile dell’Interno (ANFACI) 

ANFACI ( ) is the professional association of the Italian prefectural corps. Founded in 1978, it carries out its activities through numerous collaborations with universities, study centres and the European Network of State Territorial Representatives ( 


Author Ruben DOS SANTOS

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