Expert rubbishes McMafia claims in organised crime report

Dr Stefano Bonino
Dr Stefano Bonino
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AN ACADEMIC study which cost more than £400,000 and found Scotland to have higher levels of organised crime than almost anywhere else in the UK is “absolute garbage”, according to one of the project’s own researchers.

The soon-to-be published report prepared on behalf of the European Commission concludes Scotland is particularly “prone” to having legitimate businesses taken over by gangsters.­

The study, which was carried out by the Milan-based Transcrime research unit, claims the Italian La Torre clan is among those to have “infiltrated” Scotland, setting up legal enterprises in order to launder money obtained by illegal activities elsewhere in Europe. But 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 claims project co-ordinators failed to listen to his concerns about the type of data that had been gathered.

He said: “The claims made about Scotland are based upon available data, predominantly from open sources rather than police or government data - very inaccurate data that cannot be used to make grandiose claims.

“Such claims will simply misdirect the European Commission into believing, for example, that Scotland experiences more infiltration from organised crime than London or the North West of England, something which is absolutely absurd.”

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.

Dr Bonino added: “The European Commission has already funded and published enough garbage and this study falls into that category.

“The fact that this stuff is going to inform European and, in turn, British and Scottish policies is even more worrying.”

The report notes that organised crime groups in the UK are “predominately” based in London, the North West and ­Scotland.

A map in the report identifies Scotland, along with London, as the part of the UK where legitimate businesses are most likely to be infiltrated by criminal gangs.

Giulia Berlusconi, a researcher at Transcrime who helped co-ordinate the study, said she was confident the report was accurate. She said:“We had to rely on open sources, so we collected a lot of information from institutional reports, police reports and newspaper articles. We tried to summarise what we found in the report. It’s one of the first studies on this topic in Europe and we treated all the results and all the data we collected very carefully in order to avoid mistakes or saying that organised is everywhere, which it is not.”

Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy said: “Police Scotland was not involved in the production of the latest Transcrime report, and, as the document has not yet been publicly published, have not been given the opportunity to review its contents. However, Police Scotland has concerns as to the data sources and research methodology used.”