Technology and Justice: from drug trafficking to bad information interview with Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri

by Mundi Live

buy Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco


Nicola Gratteri needs no introduction, undisputed protagonist in the fight against organized crime in all its forms, by means of national and international anti-mafia operations with an effective law enforcement action universally appreciated.

I have allowed myself to highlight reasons such as to make Gratteri’s action even more significant, especially in recent years, and I have thus identified the peculiar virtues that can be found in him: the coherence between thought and action, which is immediately perceived by those who listen to him or read him, as well as a direct and in-depth knowledge of the phenomenon. The High Magistrate was in fact born in Gerace, a town with a strong mafia infiltration and since he was a child he found himself playing with those who, as adults, would have become life in prison.

Who better than he to know the modus operandi of a gangster, with his weaknesses and strategies, can even predict them? After all, they are often simple “chicken thieves”, who have become exponents of a worldwide criminal system. Dr. Gratteri’s books are not merely a chronicle of judicial acts, but rather represent a valuable analysis of the historical, cultural and anthropological profiles, underlining how the ‘ndrangheta is not anchored in the past alone, but rather demonstrating how it has evolved and expanded extensively in the present, taking advantage of globalization, to expand its business aims in various continents. Nicola Gratteri, driven by his crystalline intellectual honesty, is among the few to promote a far-sighted and radical reform of the judicial system. His words: “if people do not speak to us, it means that we magistrates are not credible” and, not by chance, in the proposals put forward by him in the Committee set up by the last government, there is the opportunity to use the telematic processes, as well as draw new rules on the confiscation of assets. Another priority at his heart is a parallel reform of the education system, from schools to universities.

Klauss David, a well-known massmediologist, recently published an article that brilliantly focuses on the success that Gratteri is able to punctually achieve, not only in front of audiences, but also on television, where every time he appears, invariably raises a point the share of ratings, even when he denounces as in TV drama and movies, too often there is a dangerous emphasis that is likely to become emulation. In order to get to most people, the kind of language that Gratteri has chosen to use is straightforward and direct. It is enough to remember some of his editorial efforts, starting in 2007 with “Fratelli di sangue” and, in the same year, ‘ndrangheta and “le radici dell’odio”, where the same is defined as “mala pianta”. In 2010, then, he further deepened the theme of justice with “Justice is a serious thing”. In 2011 he also dealt with the Church’s relationship with the Mafia, in a book that caused a stir: “L’acqua santissima” (The most holy water).



Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco with the Procurator of the Republic of Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri

photo by Stefano Alegnini


Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco met the Procurator of the Republic of Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri in an interview:

Mr. Attorney General, why is Justice a serious matter?

Without Justice we would not be able to say that we live in a democracy, otherwise we would have the jungle, the law of the trap. Even if it is imperfect, even if it is perfectible, we cannot do without justice, which we need as the air we breathe. However, some criticism can be levelled at the judicial system. In my role as Prosecutor, I accept them, but unfortunately I think that if in 2019 we are still talking about the readjustment of the Italian mafias in the world, it is precisely because of a series of causes and therefore co-responsibility that have persisted for some time.

We can only discuss the apportionment of blame, but we are all in fact responsible, starting with us magistrates – who have perhaps underestimated and not fully understood the phenomenon – passing through the Police Forces, historians, university professors and even certain journalists, who have painted the agro-pastoral mafias and not only, almost as mere folklore. Even today, men of pseudo-culture and pseudo-intellectuals allow themselves to make a reckless difference between the ‘good mafia’ of the past and the bad mafia of today. A serious analysis involves an aseptic process, free from one’s own political ideologies and anachronistic prejudices. Even before the Unification of Italy, it must start on a strictly documentary level. In the last twenty years, there has been a proliferation of books on the mafias, mostly romanticized and which, to read well, are even too similar to each other, always lacking innovative elements and never supported by such an indispensable historical-scientific presupposition and approach.

According to the historical analysis made by you, together with Professor Antonio Nicaso, in what historical period do we have the first examples of Italian underworld?

Today I do not know if the Calabrian mafia is the most powerful in the Western world, but it is certainly the richest, if only because it imports 80% of the cocaine in Europe. In the books “Fratelli di sangue” and “Dire e non dire”, written together with Professor Nicaso, we tell that the first times we met the term ‘ndrangheta were respectively in a document of 1930, found in the State Archives of Reggio Calabria and then in 1951, when the famous writer Corrado Avaro, son of a ‘ndranghetista, in an article of Il Corriere della sera uses that name. From a documentary research on the prison of the island of Favignana, already existing in the Bourbon period, we discovered that all opponents were locked up together. In addition to political prisoners, there were also criminals from Campania, Calabria and Sicily, who began to borrow their attitudes, behaviors, codes of language, in an attempt to dress of nobility their ways archaic, rough and uncultivated.

New rules were thus generated to the point that, after the unification of Italy, they were active in the latifundium through the figure of the farmer, dedicated to managing the peasant class and other workers, attending the division of the proceeds of the products. This was followed by new young offenders, the “picciotti”, who stole from the land of their owner. To solve these problems, the farmer did not turn to the institutions of the time, but negotiated directly with them, going to return a part of what had been stolen and keeping a considerable reward for himself.

In so doing, the petty thief became the privileged interlocutor in the administration of justice, public order, security and the management of law and order on large estates.

The one who used to live on expedients, manages to have so much power to intervene in the conflict between families, in the quarrel of a border, for a daughter seduced and abandoned and other problems. This already happened in the nineteenth century, for example in 1869 during the municipal elections in Reggio Calabria. It was the first case of elections cancelled by a Prefect in Italy for fraud. There were two lists, one supported by the church and the Bourbons, the other by the landowners and the bourgeois class. So what does the bourgeois class do on that occasion? He hires the picciotti to go and beat the candidates and voters on the opposite list. The Quaestor also lent himself to making preventive imprisonments for those who were thought to have voted against the party represented by landowners and the bourgeoisie.

Yesterday as today, we always have this ruling class, bourgeois, in a suit and tie that gives fuel to the crime car. Then making a long leap a century, up to the darkest period of Calabria, that of kidnapping, the “monster-child” generated by the bourgeois ruling class “eats the mother” who generated it. That is, all the bourgeoisie of the 70s / 80s is swept away, every wealthy Calabrian person was seized. Those who remained sold off latifundia and assets, moving to central Italy. Since then, the children of the ‘ndranghetists, who graduated above or below the counter, to favour or threaten, have in turn become the ruling class. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, with the title of law firm therefore, but with a mafia approach, consequently managing the public matter in a criminal way; as in the case of Healthcare, so much so that right now, those who can and fall ill, even with just bronchitis, run away from Rome upwards to be cured.

Dr. Gratteri, there’s a lot of talk about mafias lately, but maybe we don’t talk about them in the right contexts and from a correct point of view. Because of the movies and TV series, it has been given a distorted vision in the collective imagination. How much this sort of fictional idealization is mystified and therefore deleterious with respect to the context that we all live today?

We must not trivialize and take into account a false narrative of the reality of things. I have dedicated a large part of my life to contrasting the mafias. One phenomenon to which particular attention should be paid is the possible direct or indirect conditioning of certain elite media by these criminal associations, which systematically try to de-legitimize the activities of the servants of the State. The mafia has no ideology, it is cowardly, it has always killed women and children in a ferocious way; the only ideology it has is that of increasing its power. There is no such thing as a good mafia, there is no such thing as a distinction between a good mafia and a bad one. If we talk about respect for the rules, the foremen do not respect the rules, they make their own rules that others must respect, to then kill them, to condemn them in a farcical process. I can tell you about a foreman, an accountant who, on the pretext of assisting the families of the prisoners, raped the women of the prisoners themselves. Even when you hear my colleagues, scholars, economists, analysts, who say that the mafia is able to push a button and move millions, are bales. I would like the so-called insiders to start talking about reality, not fantasies. Let us tell the real stories, so that people can give themselves the exact measure of how things are and then we can, in a serious and technical way, create rules proportionate to the criminal reality in order to be able to counteract it.

How can the drug trafficking network bring drugs to Europe, despite the controls, and how do the mafias connect with each other?

“There is a supranational terrorist structure that stands just above the States and the mafias, a sort of credit recovery agency, to which the Colombian cartels turn, even when some creditor does not pay. Every time an organization of “cocaleros” (born in Chapare, Bolivia, and dedicated to the cultivation of coca) transports cocaine from the Amazonian forest, it has to pay them a tax of four dollars per kilo. If the drug dealer doesn’t pay or gets caught, he is automatically killed in a fierce, blatant way, so that he serves as an example. I can tell you about a fact that really happened. A cocaine trafficker from San Calogero did not pay the Colombian terrorists for a coca batch, they turned to this organization and it turned to ETA in Spain, which sent two men to the country of the trafficker.

They found the house and factory and sent the photos to South America and from there they sent them to this trafficker from San Calogero, warning him that, knowing where he lived, they would destroy his house and factory and then kill him. In South America, Colombia is the state that opposes drug trafficking the most, and be aware that Colombia is the second country in the world, after China, in terms of growth in gross domestic product. It is one of the states in which the American DEA invests the most and the drug traffickers no longer start the cocaine shipments from the Colombian ports, but try to start them from the south compared to Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, because the territories are less controlled. One of these is, for example, Brazil, where the judicial police are scarce, even if of high quality, and where there is the largest port in South America, with 35 kilometres of docks”.

The Prosecutor then goes on to explain how often, unfortunately, with the complicity of corrupt men, you can evade the controls in the main ports and airports and how cocaine arrives in many ways: confused in large loads, in containers, ingested by travelers become improvised traffickers, thanks to large dogs or even with double and triple bottoms in suitcases, furniture and in some cases, impregnated in clothing.

Why does ‘ndrangheta do business in South America? How far do the tentacles of the underworld extend between Italy, Europe and foreign states?

You know that cocaine is only produced in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. I can assure you that the leaders of the mafias are not able to make sophisticated recycling, albeit rich, their problem is to justify the wealth. They are able to speculate on building, buy land and then build it, create terraced houses, invest in supermarkets or in the Tertiary, but the mobster who invests in the Stock Exchange I have not yet seen him. Instead, there is the mafia that uses professionals, accountants and banking experts to make sophisticated money laundering.

The most powerful and important form of money laundering by the mafias is the trafficking of cocaine. While Cosa Nostra was engaged in ostracism, waging war on the state, the ‘ndrangheta with kidnappings bought trucks, bulldozers and entered the world of construction and construction of major public works and meanwhile, intercepting consumption, sent in Colombia and Bolivia brokers to live in South America. These brokers then set up a family there, and as time went by they were able to carry out the task of buying coke at the lowest price. Here it becomes evident a fact that goes beyond, that of credibility, prestige, going to consider the ‘ndrangheta as a serious interlocutor, a criminal seriousness, a criminal professionalism. The ‘ndrangheta is one of the few mafias that has come to buy cocaine for sale and produces cocaine in partnership with the South American cartels. It does not sell retail, it does not have control of the simple squares, it sells wholesale to Nigerians and to criminal organizations of North Africa or to local criminal organizations. Then the drug arrives at the street pusher, the starving man, who, in order to get a free dose, sells four out of five.

Backwards the money returns, but only 9% in South America, because these organizations invest in Europe, prefer to invest in rich areas, both because it is easier to camouflage and because you earn more money. So we add a problem to the problem.

Is there a connection between drug trafficking and terrorism?

In addition to drug trafficking, terrorism certainly fits into this context. Several times, in the investigations, we meet the terrorist of the Auc (South American paramilitary terrorist group), who does business with the ‘ndrangheta. One of our most important investigations with the Auc was when we investigated the head of the Auc, Mancuso Salvatore, originally from the province of Salerno. This Mancuso, who grew up in American universities, spoke perfectly also Castilian, was in business with the ‘ndrangheta and was buying a city, a town around Lucca, to move during the negotiations between the terrorists of the Auc and the Colombian government. They wanted to come to Italy. He had 35 Colombian parliamentarians on his payroll, at a certain point the investigation expanded, so much so that we needed to make interceptions in South America. So I leave for South America and arrive at the airport of El Dorado, we get into these jeeppòni and as we arrived at the hotel, I see many green jeeps with these men in military uniform and I thought there was some kind of parade, of which we had not been informed. When I arrived at the hotel, I noticed that, strangely enough, they were also there.

So let’s talk to the police and the magistrates and consider that years ago with ground-to-air missiles they attacked the court of Bogotá killing six magistrates. They still run a great risk, so much so that as a precautionary measure, their name is not written on their door, but the number of the room and when the magistrate interrogates there is a tinted glass, the voice is changed for obvious security reasons. Well, we get to make many arrests and the American DEA after a year and a half manages to capture Salvatore Mancuso, taking him to Washington. I leave to question him, I enter the prison and he, as soon as he sees me, tells me: “We know each other, I was in the hotel that night when you came to Bogota”; since I ask him: “but how did you know that I was in the hotel?”, he replied: “I wanted to see who was this madman who came from Italy to investigate me. The general of the Colombian army was on my payroll, the director of El Dorado airport was a man of mine”.

Is there still a ‘ndrangheta of the TNT, which controls the territory?

There is no ‘ndrangheta if there is no territory, the basic structure is the extension of the territory over which power is exercised. On a procedural level, we have seen how surveyors, engineers of these large companies and multinationals in the north, came down before the beginning of the works to negotiate with the chiefs of their respective territories, so as not to incur in that rite of the TNT on the bulldozer or excavator. This is control of the territory.

Nowadays, however, we see less and less that mafia waiting for the tow at the construction site, but we see a ‘ndrangheta that increasingly co-manages the public thing, intervening in the management and organization of political and administrative life of a territory.

Today we see that in the world of ‘ndragheta the phenomenon of extortion is increasingly rare, while much more complex and refined operations have developed.

It is organized in the large distribution of all goods, from food to cement. A mafia entrepreneur can sell at lower prices than a normal distributor, recycling cocaine money. Small local banks are often colluded, the appointments of boards and directors are easily corruptible, even more so the financial ones, although the latter require more guarantees and grant loans easily with high interest rates. So we see these mafia creditors borrowing money from small private institutions, mainly in northern Italy. These loans are then put into circulation by building anomalous commercial activities, managing to sell the same products at a lower price thus escaping the normal trade rules.

We all remember the bloody feud of Taurianova, which led to the emergency measure of 1991, a regulatory measure unique in the world, which allowed the dissolution of more than 300 municipalities thirty years later. What is the situation to date?

I am perhaps the one who is giving more work than anyone to the prefectures and the Minister of the Interior regarding the dissolution of the municipalities for the mafia. In the last year many have been dissolved and unfortunately many will still be dissolved. The Prefectural Commissioners must have the same powers as the Mayor, if not more, because a Mayor who makes an electoral list knows very well who the candidates on the lists are and how they are colluding with the mafias. The Prefectural Commissioner must therefore also have the power to cancel decisions already approved by the City Council. We found ourselves in a village in the province of Reggio Calabria, where the Commander of the urban police was the daughter of the head of the police. In that case, the Prefectural Commissioner found himself collaborating with the daughter of a head of the police in cases of abuse of buildings, occupations of public land, etc.. However, many more communes will be dissolved, where they are not an expression of democracy and popular will.

Dr Gratteri, in 2014 you were appointed as a member of the task force for the elaboration of proposals on the fight against organised crime. In your reform project, which is divided into 130 articles, you also talk about information technology as an innovation in the judicial and procedural field. The much-discussed “remote trial” would also have implications for overcrowding in prisons. How would it lead to a resolution of the problem?

Today, computer science beats the time of the process, the costs of the process and the intentional power of man, therefore of abuse. Prisons are not overcrowded because they are full, but because many sections are closed due to lack of staff. In Italy there are 44,000 prisoners and every day 10,000 of them are used for translations and transfers. To give an example, a prisoner who has to come from Tolmezzo prison the following day to trial at the court of Catanzaro, leaves from Tolmezzo in a van with 5 men and arrives at the airport of Venice, gets on the plane with 5 men and arrives in Rome, then from Rome arrives in Lamezia, then another van with 5 men from Lamezia takes him to Catanzaro. After that, the next morning he comes back with 5 other men and so on. This “game” costs 70 million euros a year with the risk of evasion during the journey and the risk that, even during the breaks of the hearing or at other times, the prisoner can send requests for bribes or death threats outside.

In the draft reform, my committee has provided that the detainee is in prison in Tolmezzo by connecting by videoconference to the court of Catanzaro, either as a suspect, as a defendant, as a witness retrospectively connected or even if you have to separate with his wife. Imagine with EUR 70 million how many men it would be possible to hire in the prison police, how many in the chancellery and the secretariat each year. Let us take the example of a bankruptcy trial and 40 witnesses being heard. At a certain point a judge is transferred and another judge takes his place, the lawyer does not give his consent to the renewal of the proceedings and the process in this way starts again. The 40 witnesses will be resentful again in the trial phase, this means paying twice for the journey of each of them. In our reform proposal we have provided for the video recording of the witness so that, taking the example of before, the judge who goes to settle see the dvd and when there is no need to ask questions unpublished, the process can go ahead. In this way, moreover, the lawyer who incidentally has the criminal responsibility of his client, will not be able to try to send the trial in statute-barred.

For problems such as late notification or failure to notify that cause the process to be postponed for another 7 or 8 months, we have provided for the ‘introduction of a PEC (certified e-mail) for every citizen of age. We could spend weeks to make examples of computer science applied to the trial and to the justice. Implementing these standards and innovations does not mean lowering the level of guarantee, but it means efficiency, it means answers, because you do not compress the basic terms, but you have the confidence that all phases are successful.


In addition to these important reforms in the judicial sphere, where is the greatest need for change in Italy? What is your vision regarding the cultural level of Italian children and the educational institution?

In Italy we are still at the fundamentals, before we talk about culture we must talk about education. It has not been possible to create a full-time school that gives the opportunity in the morning to teach and learn Italian, mathematics and other subjects and in the afternoon the opportunity to approach culture. We are selling off education and universities. To date, Italian universities are not competitive with the rest of the world and in particular are not competitive in Europe. Why this? Because we need funds and reforms, many reforms that would kill the baronies.

We can say that in Italy education is not taking place. In the vast majority of cases, even at university exams, young people are not able to speak Italian without making a mistake, they are not able to write in Italian. The best, they write five lines without a dot and with two commas. I often find myself correcting the punctuation to lawyers, colleagues, law graduates and I realize that in addition to being the student not to learn, even teachers too often can not speak and write in Italian correct. The teacher must return to being a respectable figure and culture, must be adequately paid and not be a teacher who is given the “you”.

My mission is not simple but I feel that today, after decades of sacrifice, I am beginning to see a change. Together with the Police, in my role as Public Prosecutor, I am growing and leading a generation towards a new thought, a new technical approach to investigation, a new philosophy of work.

This mental revolution, soon we will also do it on the judicial level.

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