Mafia, Mafia Everywhere
After the fall of communism and the formation of the European Union, the continent has become a playground for dozens of organized crime groups. Many are transplants from other regions of the world, but a number are homegrown. From Irish drug lords to the Albanian mob, the European underworld scene has become a patchwork of overlapping territories, personal vendettas, and unparalleled cooperation between ethnic groups that have never been particularly friendly. And their infiltration of Europe has brought them untold riches from a continent ripe for the picking.
The Celtic Tiger
On June 26, 1996, Irish journalist Veronica Guerin was sitting in her car at an intersection when a gunman on a motorcycle pumped her car full of bullets. Guerin had been investigating the upsurge in Irish gangland activities, specifically the drug scene. Her focus was on John Gilligan, one of the most feared gangsters in Ireland. Once the protégé of the famed General, Martin Cahill, Gilligan rose out of the ashes of Cahill's death to be the number one man in the Dublin underworld.
But taking out Guerin was not the smartest move. The resulting uproar brought the police down on him full force. Though he was found not guilty of her murder, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison for drug trafficking.
Albanian organized crime gangs operated under the radar for years before they had the spotlight shined on them as a result of the war in Kosovo. There were reports that tied the smuggling of heroin through the Balkan region to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an American-backed freedom fighter group battling the Serbian army. It was reported that the Albanian mob families were funding the KLA. As the war heated up and Albanians began emigrating throughout Europe, many of the crime figures followed suit. Albanian crime groups set up shop in Belgium, Germany, Austria, and even Italy, where they partnered with the Camorra, ‘ndrangheta, and Sicilian Mafia.
One of the world's major drug dealers, Israeli crime boss Ze'ev Rosen-stein was extradited to the United States in 2006 to face charges of ecstasy trafficking. It was one of the first times that Israel extradited someone to face criminal charges in another country. Rosenstein pled guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in an Israeli prison, another interesting twist.
The Albanian mob was into the usual rackets — drugs, loansharking, infiltrating legitimate business, and various scams. But like the Russians, they sometimes took it a step further, delving into human smuggling and arms trafficking. Not the nicest bunch of guys around.
The influence of this crime group even extended to New York City, where an Albanian crew out-muscled the Lucchese Mafia family from its former stronghold in Astoria. Known as the Rudaj Corporation, the group operated out of a social club, echoing the popular image of the espresso-sipping mobster. There were even some Italian associates in the group. But the Rudaj boys had little time to enjoy the spotlight as the feds quickly moved in and arrested the crew.
The Italian Scene
The Sicilian Mafia has always been the archetypical organized crime group. They gave rise to the crime lords of America and have carved out a significant niche for themselves across Sicily, Europe, and the rest of the world. However, with the increasing focus from law enforcement, internal warfare, and scores of mobsters turning against their former brothers in arms, the Italian criminal landscape has made some room for the other mobs to expand their operations: the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, the Neapolitan Camorra, and the Pugliese Sacra Corona Unita.
Italian journalist Roberto Saviano's 2007 book Gomorrah, an exposé of the Neapolitan Camorra, so angered the region's crime bosses that they put out a contract on him. He has a constant police escort to protect him.
The influence of these other mob groups has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia. In 2007, the streets of Naples were piled with trash, after the Camorra-dominated trash industry stopped picking up refuse to flex their muscle. Then in short order was a report that the ‘ndrangheta controlled a vast amount of Europe and Australia's drug market, and in fact have become the most powerful Italian crime organization in the world. And the Corona Unita are little-known outside the “boot” of Italy, avoiding the police attention afforded the other groups.