‘I will tear his head off’: How the Italian Mafia is infiltrating Germany

Investigators examine a car where three burned bodies were found in Cassano allo Ionio, Calabria province, southern Italy in January 2014. According to reports, a three-year-old boy was killed allegedly by rivalling Ndrangheta mafia gangs. The ‘Ndrangheta clan specializes in drug trafficking, but in Germany also deals in Italian gourmet foods.

In the early summer of 2012, Gabriele S., a small business owner, let his frustrations loose on the phone. “I swear to you, I will tear off his head,” the native Sicilian ranted to an informant. “He is a major league bastard!” He wanted to kill the man, “eradicate” him. This was followed by more swears and curses.

The lively conversation, which was being listened to by the Cologne police, turned out to be very valuable for the officers of the special “Scavo” commission — giving them insight into the internal functioning of two supposed Mafia groups in the Western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The conversation showed investigators how the perpetrators divided up their turf and resolved or escalated conflicts.

After all, Gabriele S. — a former shepherd from the small town of Licata — doesn’t merely have a fiery temperament, he also has criminal interests. According to the investigators, he ran a network of shell companies and helped cheat the state and the social security benefits office of many millions of euros. Gabriele S. and three accomplices are currently on trial at the Cologne regional court for, among other things, organized tax fraud. The verdict is expected on Wednesday.

The Sicilians are accused of owning 17 seemingly construction-related businesses and employing straw men as managers. According to the indictment, the men used the companies to help launder money in exchange for a fee.

The case of Gabriele S. and his accomplices seems to be exemplary of the construction sector, which, according to an internal study by the North Rhine-Westphalia State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA), has been broadly infiltrated by bogus companies. In the Rhine and Ruhr regions, these fake businesses are mostly dominated by southern Italians who, in turn, according to the paper, have frequent ties to Cosa Nostra…