ABERDEEN is a “mafia stronghold” for a notorious crime syndicate which controls swathes of the city’s economy, according to a new report from a leading European think tank.
The Naples-based Camorra crime organisation, which has been linked with a number of killings, is involved in the city’s catering, retail and property sectors, the research by the European Union-funded Transcrime centre found.
A former Scottish MEP described the findings as “absolutely staggering” and called for police action and new laws to “stamp out” the mafia’s influence.
The study, analysing how major criminal gangs laundered their money in selected countries from 2007, claimed the Camorra group had interests in the city’s public works.
However, that allegation was denied by the former leader of Aberdeen City Council, although he admitted that the presence of the criminal element in the city was no secret.
The family crime networks which make up the Camorra syndicate are said to have killed more people than any other crime gang in Europe.
It originated in the Italian city of Naples and is one of the oldest and largest criminal organisations in Europe, dating back to the 18th century. Its influence has since spread across the continent and further afield, with the gang acquiring footholds in both the UK and US.
The report by Transcrime states: “The Camorra stronghold is Aberdeen, the third most populous city in Scotland, where it controls the catering, public works, food retail and wholesale and property sectors.”
The report also found that two other Italian crime gangs had a presence in the UK – the Sicilian Mafia, which is said to run illegal gambling dens in London, and the ’Ndrangheta, which researchers found is involved in the property sector in the UK capital. Police Scotland declined to comment on the report, but former council leader Barney Crockett said the mobsters’ presence in Aberdeen came as no surprise.
He said: “I think the attraction of Aberdeen is the fact that they can swap over a lot of money, because it is such a business environment. However, I am totally confident that there is no involvement in public works of any description.”
Former MEP Struan Stevenson said: “It is absolutely staggering – but probably shouldn’t come as a surprise – that the Camorra has twigged that places like Aberdeen are potential havens for them to launder money.
“Scottish police need to get to the bottom of whether the findings of this report are true and if it is, there needs to be unilateral action to stamp it out. New European laws to back this up would be helpful.”
Aberdeen has been repeatedly linked with Italian organised crime in the past decade. Undercover Italian journalist Roberto Saviano’s 2006 book, Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia, claimed that Aberdeen was the focus of the crime clan’s British operations.
City restaurateur Antonio La Torre was arrested in 2005 and jailed in Italy for extortion and racketeering after being named by Italian prosecutors as a Camorra crime lord.
Before he was arrested in 2005, La Torre managed to set up a small commercial empire as a money-laundering operation in Aberdeen, including an olive oil and prosciutto-importing business as well as a restaurant. He is the brother of Augusto La Torre, who later confessed to murdering 40 people in Italy.
The former Aberdeen restaurateur Michele Siciliano, who is said to have looked after La Torre’s finances following his extradition, gave himself up to anti-mobster prosecutors the following year.
Another city restaurant boss, Ciro Schiattarella, was jailed after being extradited to Italy to face charges.
Italian MEP Oreste Rossi is using the report to back his calls for new tools to crack down on mafia money-laundering across Europe.
Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, said: “The commission intends to take into account the results of this study in order to consider further measures aimed at preventing the infiltration of organised crime into the legal economy of the union.”