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  • Series: Elgar Handbooks in Political Science x
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Felia Allum, Stan Gilmour and Catherine Hemmings

A man in his thirties with black hair sits behind a desk. He is a former Camorrista who held an important role in his clan because he was one of the clan’s mediators with local politicians. He is unforgiving of politicians: ‘the ambition of all politicians is to “arrive”,without looking anyone in the eye . . . honestly or dishonestly, the important thing is to arrive’ (interview 1, 1997, p. 3). But then, he explains that politicians were often only manipulated by the Mafiosi in their quest for public contracts and funds: the tendering process for public contracts is organised by the local council, the decisions are taken by a board of councillors, the mayor and his deputy; all these people took orders from us. We knew from the start which contract we wanted to win and then, we would approach them through important people, influential people in the town. For example, builders or councillors, individuals who could approach certain people. We would manipulate the tendering process in our favour, indeed . . . we already knew who would win the contract, we knew who would do what, how much and when. (ibid.)

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Jean-Louis Briquet and Gilles Favarel-Garrigues

Few studies have been devoted to the analysis of the relationships between the political world and organised crime groups in France. On the one hand, research on organised crime in France focuses on the influence of foreign groups or on drug-dealing gangs in French suburbs; while on the other hand, political scandals usually reflect financial and white-collar offences, without any connection to the underworld. Drawing on rare academic studies, media investigations and institutional reports, this chapter shows the existence of ties between political actors and gangsters in the recent past. These ties may help to understand how political machines work at the local level and how political parties’ security teams becomeinvolved in criminal activities.

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Carina Gunnarson and Amir Rostami

Sweden represents an unlikely case for the development of mafia-like organisations: the state is strong with a relatively well-functioning legal system; the political institutions are stable, trust in government is widespread, bureaucratic ethics are strong, and associational life is vibrant. Yet, in a relatively short time, starting in the early 1980s, organised crime has established its power structure in Södertälje, a medium-sized city near Stockholm. In September 2014, the Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm confirmed the existence of a criminal organisation that had an extensive power structure with ramifications intopolitics and the welfare sector. This chapter analyses the so-called ‘Syriac mafia’ and its relationship with the welfare state and politics at the local level in the city of Södertälje.

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Martina Bedetti and Nicolò Dalponte

The aim of this chapter is to give an accurate overview of the ‘Ndrangheta’s expansion in Germany, as little is known about it in terms of its physical presence, its financial activities and its relationship with politics. In order to give a clear analytical overview of the phenomenon, this chapter: (1) gives a general description of the physical presence of the Calabrian organisation in Germany;and (2) explores the internal and external factors that have made the ‘Ndrangheta’s expansion in Germany possible. In particular, specific political, economic and legislative factors are analysed. Particular attention is given to the role of human resources and interpersonal relations that play a key part in the establishment of the ‘Ndrangheta in a ‘non-traditional context’.However, the lack of evidence of its infiltration into local and national politics makes this colonisation profoundly different from others. It proves that Germany still plays a strategic role in the ‘Ndrangheta's expansion strategy, but that, up until now, it is mainly considered a target country for financial investments in the legal and illegal sectors and a ‘transition country’ but not a place for political activities. Finally, the role of the Duisburg massacre in 2007 is examined to show how it marked a turning point in Germany's fight against Italian organised crime.

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Vittorio Mete

This chapter focuses on the relationship between mafias and local politics in Italy over the last 25 years. It provides an overview of local councils that have been disbanded due tomafia infiltration, in relation to who is governing nationally and their territorial disposition. It then shows the various reasons behind the necessity to disband councils, what happens when the council is being managed by state commissioners, and what occurs when the council returns to its ‘normal’ administration. In particular, councils in the North of Italy which are not normally considered ‘traditional’ mafia territory are discussed. This chapter thus offers a picture of the infiltration of local councils by mafias in Italy, and the state’s response.

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Jana Arsovska

This chapter illustrates how the weak economic and political institutions in the post-Communist Western Balkan region, among other factors, gave rise to a sophisticated organised crime_political nexus in Albania and Serbia. Two prominent organised crime_political corruption cases from Albania and Serbia are discussed in order to highlight the dynamic relationship between politics and organised crime. The cases exemplify the infiltration mechanisms of organised crime groups, and the level of involvement of state officials; the chapter also discusses the nature of the relationship between organised crime offenders and politicians in the selected countries, and points to the existence of an ‘oligarchs and clans’ type of political corruption. This is one of the most dangerous forms of corruption,which does not allow for democratic processes and the rule of law to take place in the region. This chapter also explains why and how high levels of political corruption have led to a situation of ‘state capture’, where it is difficult to say who is a politician and who is an entrepreneur or criminal.

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Yuliya Zabyelina and Anna Markovska

Similarly to other post-Soviet frozen conflicts, the conflict-ravaged Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine fell under the control of quasi-governance structures in May 2014. The governments of the two secessionist republics, the Donetsk People’s Party (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), engage in interstate trade and reinforce border flexibility in order to financially profit from havoc, lawlessness and impunity. This chapter provides a detailed analysis of the illicit economy of the conflict in the Donbas region with an emphasis on the coal industry. It highlights the strategies that de facto state leaders employ to gain domestic and international legitimacy. The analysis not only contributes to the understanding of the armed conflict in Ukraine but also sheds light on important aspectsof the political economy of frozen conflicts, in which organised crime groups often function as de facto regimes.

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Marina Tzvetkova

Organised crime in Bulgaria emerged in response to the social and economic conditions after the fall of Communism: weak institutions and the plentiful opportunities for illicit and semi-legitimate business transactions. To shed light on the role of the political elite and the state in the emergence and the evolution of organised crime, this chapter looks at the formal and informal relationships between various groups of actors after 1989– elite athletes, former state law enforcement officers, and members of the political and business elite – and the impact these links had. This chapter argues that Communist elites pursuing their own enrichment and survival strategies, and the post-Communist elites pursuing political and economic power willingly, through intentional transactions, or inadvertently (by being incompetent in their positions), assisted the development of mafia-like organisations in Bulgaria.

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Alexander Kupatadze

This chapter traces the developments in organised crime and political corruption in the countries of post-Soviet Eurasia and accounts for the variations in political_criminal collusion. It looks at how geographical location, types of political leadership, presence or absence of natural resources, and the engagement of international actors produce different forms of collusion. It then discusses the purposes for which criminal leaders are usually enlisted by politicians and provides specific examples. It finds that the influence of criminals over the state domain has largely diminished, but the representatives of underworld still prove to be useful proxies in a number of areas, especially during the highly competitive political battles as well as in taxing elusive revenue flows from the informal economy and projecting influence abroad. It is argued that the political_criminal nexus is not a passing stage in state development and proves to be resilient even under the conditions of increasing government capacity and the formalising state.