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Mafias on the Move

Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

Federico Varese
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t96v
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  • Book Info
    Mafias on the Move
    Book Description:

    Organized crime is spreading like a global virus as mobs take advantage of open borders to establish local franchises at will. That at least is the fear, inspired by stories of Russian mobsters in New York, Chinese triads in London, and Italian mafias throughout the West.

    As Federico Varese explains in this compelling and daring book, the truth is more complicated. Varese has spent years researching mafia groups in Italy, Russia, the United States, and China, and argues that mafiosi often find themselves abroad against their will, rather than through a strategic plan to colonize new territories. Once there, they do not always succeed in establishing themselves. Varese spells out the conditions that lead to their long-term success, namely sudden market expansion that is neither exploited by local rivals nor blocked by authorities. Ultimately the inability of the state to govern economic transformations gives mafias their opportunity.

    In a series of matched comparisons, Varese charts the attempts of the Calabrese 'Ndrangheta to move to the north of Italy, and shows how the Sicilian mafia expanded to early twentieth-century New York, but failed around the same time to find a niche in Argentina. He explains why the Russian mafia failed to penetrate Rome but succeeded in Hungary. In a pioneering chapter on China, he examines the challenges that triads from Taiwan and Hong Kong find in branching out to the mainland. Based on ground-breaking field work and filled with dramatic stories, this book is both a compelling read and a sober assessment of the risks posed by globalization and immigration for the spread of mafias.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3672-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On September 11, 1996,Boris Sergeev, the director of an import-export company based in Rome and father of two, a stocky man in his late forties, arrived in Moscow to finalize a valuable contract for the importation of frozen meat. The Russian partners were Agroprom, a giant Soviet agricultural concern that was now in private hands, and two prominent banks, the Nuovo Banco Ambrosiano and Promstroybank. The former had a somewhat bumpy history—its CEO Roberto Calvi was found hanging from beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982—but was now under new management and aggressively trying to enter the...

  5. TWO Mafia Transplantation
    (pp. 13-30)

    Does transplantation ever take place? It is often difficult to gauge what the police, judicial authorities, or press reports mean when they claim, for example, that the Russian mafia is active in at least twenty-six foreign countries, or that the Calabrese ˋNdrangheta is present in more than twenty countries.¹ From the few academic studies that mention the phenomenon, we know that mafias are rather stationary. Peter Reuter, while discussing U.S. “illegal enterprises” (of which mafias are a subset), notes that they tend to be “local in scope.”² InThe Sicilian Mafia, Diego Gambetta writes that “not only did the [Sicilian]...

  6. THREE The ˋNdrangheta in Piedmont and Veneto
    (pp. 31-64)

    “The ˋNdrangheta is as invisible as the other side of the moon” remarked a prosecutor in Florida in the 1980s.¹ Indeed, the organization managed for a long time to remain under the radar of many police forces around the world, in part thanks to the small number of turncoats. In the same period, Tommasso Buscetta, the highest-profile Sicilian mafioso turned state witness, even suggested impishly that it might not exist as an autonomous entity.² Notwithstanding Buscetta, historians have documented the existence of the ˋNdrangheta since the late nineteenth century, although at that time it did not yet have a name...

  7. FOUR The Russian Mafia in Rome and Budapest
    (pp. 65-100)

    Solntsevo is a rundown, working-class district of Moscow, located in the western and southwestern parts of the city. Lying outside the MKAD, Moscow’s equivalent of Washington’s Beltway or London’s M25, the inhabitants of central Moscow would never venture into this depressed zone of the outer city, and many would not even consider it part of the Russian capital.¹ The intrepid traveler who still wants to visit Solntsevo must spend no less than an hour on the orange metro line that leaves from the center of town and then, once they have reached the end of the line, board a city...

  8. FIVE Lessons from the Past: Sicilian Mafiosi in New York City and Rosario, circa 1880–1940
    (pp. 101-145)

    A tough young man with neither prospects nor any intention of working in the sulfur mines or fields of his hometown, Siculiana, in the Agrigento Province of Italy, Nick Gentile—also known as Zu Cola (1885–unknown) and author of the first insider’s account of the American mafia—preferred to try his luck abroad. A well-oiled network allowed him to reach the United States and land in New York City in 1903 at the age of eighteen, with an address in hand, 91 Elizabeth Street, in one of the city’s Sicilian colonies. His U.S. contact, who directed immigrants from Siculiana...

  9. SIX The Future of the Mafias? Foreign Triads in China
    (pp. 146-187)

    I crossed into China in September 2009. My companion and I had boarded the East Rail Line in downtown Hong Kong heading toward Lo Wu, the last stop before the People’s Republic of China. The trip takes no more than forty-five minutes, and there is hardly any time to enjoy the vista. The train races through the center of Hong Kong, allowing the passenger just a glimpse of Mong Kok, the suburb where most of the brothels and karaoke bars run by the triads are located, and quickly covers the several miles of the agricultural, sparsely built land in the...

  10. SEVEN Mafia Origins, Transplantation, and the Paradoxes of Democracy
    (pp. 188-202)

    Boris Sergeev, the Solntsevskaya associate operating in Rome, was a flitter, laying his eggs in many nests. Born in Moscow, he lived in Vienna and Paris. His police file lists several aliases. He was a polygamist and forger. Unconfirmed sources claim that he had worked for the KGB in the 1980s. When negotiating with Islamist fighters to smuggle Chechen oil to countries under the UN embargo, he grew a beard. For reasons as yet unknown, he surfaced in Rome in the early 1990s. When the Solntsevskaya boss arrived in the Italian capital a year or two later, Sergeev offered to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-236)
  12. References
    (pp. 237-262)
  13. Index
    (pp. 263-278)