AN ACADEMIC study which found Scotland to be a hotbed of organised crime has been toned down after criticism from its own researchers that its findings were misleading.
The £400,000 study by the Milan-based Transcrime research unit on behalf of the European Commission, which was published this week, claims legitimate Scottish businesses are among the most likely in the UK to be infiltrated by the mafia.
However, the findings have been qualified after one of the project’s own researchers described a draft of the report as “absolute garbage” earlier this year.
Dr Stefano Bonino, a criminologist at Northumbria University who was involved in writing the UK section of the report, said its research methods were “deeply flawed”.
Dr Bonino claimed project co-ordinators failed to listen to his concerns about the type of data that had been gathered.
Police Scotland also said it had “concerns” about the report, which draws heavily from media reports and had no input from the force.
Published this week, the report said parts of Scotland appeared to be “prone” to being targeted by organised crime groups.
However, it added: “These findings must be treated with some caution because of the low levels of data and possible reporting biases.”
Last year, Italian MEP Oreste Rossi claimed Transcrime had found evidence Aberdeen was a “stronghold” for the Camorra, the feared Neapolitan crime syndicate.
It followed the arrest in 2005 of restaurateur Antonio La Torre, who was later jailed in Italy for extortion and racketeering.
But Felia Allum, an expert on the Italian mafia based at Bath University, said there was insufficient evidence to claim Scotland had a mafia problem.
She said: “There’s not enough information available to say that Scotland is ‘completely’ infiltrated by Italian mafias. That’s the problem I have”.
“Clearly there’s a history of a Neapolitan Camorra clan having an operating base in Aberdeen during the 1980-90s, but their members have since been arrested and extradited back to Italy. So, the question I have is what is the situation today?”
“At present, there is not very much information from the Italian authorities to suggest that Italian mafias are active in Scotland.
“I would like to see the report provide more concrete evidence to support these claims. In particular, as the researchers had no direct access to British police information and this is where perhaps, the research should have started.
“However, as British police do not explicitly investigate mafia type crimes because mafia association is not a crime here, analysing Italian mafias in the UK is very difficult”.