Thursday, July 19, 2007

Germany: Notorious Mobster to Testify at German Trial

Mafia boss Giuseppe Bellocco was arrested in Calabria on Tuesday

Notorious Mobster to Testify at German Trial

A German court will hear evidence Wednesday from infamous Italian-German Mafioso Giorgio Basile. For 10 years, his testimonies, in exchange for his freedom, have helped police crack down on organized crime.
If the three Italians on trial in Düsseldorf for cocaine-trafficking are found guilty, it won’t be the first time that evidence supplied by mobster-turned-police informant Basile puts suspected Mafiosi behind bars.
Before he was even 40, the man they called "Angel Face" had murdered up to 30 people. After being arrested in the Allgäu region of southern Germany in 1998, he was allowed to go free. In return for his new life in a witness protection program, he has helped police lock up over 50 criminals.
Now 47, Basile, who will testify Wednesday via video from a secret location in Italy, was once one of the most redoubtable top dogs within the Carelli clan, which belongs to Calabria's notorious 'Ndrangheta.
Among the most powerful and ruthless Mafia-like organizations in Italy, 'Ndrangheta cells are loosely based on blood relationships. The organization is believed to rake in some $30 billion (22 billion euros) annually, mostly from illegal narcotics, but also from ostensibly legal businesses such as construction, restaurants and supermarkets. Allegedly, it is also involved in counterfeiting, gambling, fraud, theft, labor racketeering, loan sharking, people smuggling and kidnapping.
The 'Ndrangheta‘s family ties are believed to be closer and their vows of silence more strictly observed than other Mafia clans, such as Cosa Nostra and Camorra. So when Giorgio Basile decided to break them, it marked a watershed in Germany's fight against the Mafia.

Becoming numero uno

With all the ingredients of a classic "Godfather" film, it comes as no surprise that Basile's story has attracted the attention of a Munich film company which has worked in the past with German star movie director Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Downfall).
Born in Corigliano Calabro in 1960, Giorgio moved one year later to Mühlheim an der Ruhr in Germany, where his father made a living as a "guest worker." In 1966, his parents separated when his father realized his mother was having an affair. Her lover was Antonio de Cicco, local boss of the 'Ndrangheta in Corigliano and every bit the Latin stereotype in his sharp suits with slicked-back hair and gold chains. Giorgio spent two years in Italy with his new family, but returned to Germany when his mother got pregnant.
He lost touch with his adopted father until 1979, when at the age of 19, Giorgio was persuaded by de Cicco to leave the dull, industrial trappings of western Germany and work as his driver back in Corigliano. As a fledgling 'ndrinu, he enjoyed the attention his association with de Cicco afforded him and soon became versed in the ways of the clan. But when he discovered his adopted father had been abusing his sister, he resolved to avenge her. In 1973, he made his first killing, when he murdered de Cicco.
By now, he was one of the most powerful cocaine dealers in Tuscany, and a recognized uomo d' onore (man of honor). It was during these years that he met his wife, who bore him a daughter. He extended the business further afield, and in the 1980s, played a key role in building up Mafia influence in Germany.

Betrayed by the organization

Arrested in 1998, he opted to break the Omertà, the Mafia‘s "code of silence". Within Mafia culture, this made him a "stool pigeon" -- a violation punishable by death.
According to Andreas Ulrich, author of "Angel Face," a biography of Giorgio Basile, he agreed to name names because "he felt betrayed by the organization."
"It never comes good on its promises," he said. "It lures young men with promises of power, money and women. It uses them, then kills them as though they were ants."
Basile has said he lives with the knowledge that the Mafia will hunt him down and kill him. "The Mafia bosses are behind bars because of what I did," he told Ulrich. "They can‘t do anything to me any more, but their sons will avenge them."
Eighteen months ago, he told the online version of German news magazine Der Spiegel that the Mafia's influence was stronger than ever.
"The Mafia will continue to expand," he said. "The enlarged Europe will allow it to spread even further. For someone with the same criminal energy as I had, it's even easier in Germany than it is in Italy. You can get away with anything."
Basile said the German authorities had failed to recognize the extent of the criminal energy that exists within the underground Italian community.
"I couldn’t put a figure to it, but Germany is home to many sleepers. Go in to any pizzeria and you might find the cook is a hitman just waiting for a call," he said.

Giorgio Basile

The mob in Germany

The extent of mob influence is definitely underestimated in Germany, said Mafia expert Jürgen Roth.
"When Berlusconi was in power there was very little information coming out of Italy," he explained. "The Mafia took the opportunity to get a foothold in Germany. There is now barely any knowledge of the Mafia's criminal structures here. It is active mainly in the area of money laundering, drug and weapons trading, protection racketeering and prostitution."
While the biggest 'Ndrangheta presence is in eastern German states such as Thuringia and Saxony, Roth says Cosa Nostra has a higher profile in Baden-Württemberg, where CDU state premier Günther Oettinger has even been accused of ties to a leading 'Ndrangheta member. The state's premier between 1978 and 1980, Lothar Späth, was also accused of contacts to Mafia kingpin Vito Palazollo, Cosa Nostra's top money launderer.
Earlier this month, Italy’s leading Mafia hunter, Piero Grasso, warned Germany in the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily that the mob was even beginning to penetrate legitimate business circles in Germany.
"The size and profit potential of German markets, as well as German law, makes the country highly attractive to organized criminals," he said. "Their goal is to infiltrate legal financial circles in order to invest illegally gained funds with a long-term aim of dominating price wars and creating monopolies."

Jane Paulick

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