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Kofi Annan
"If crime crosses all borders, so must law and order"
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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 12:23 GMT
Mafia comeback mars UN conference
Security for UN conference on organised crime
Palermo a safer place than 10 years ago
A major UN conference being held in Sicily aimed at cracking down on organised crime has been overshadowed by reports that the Mafia is again exerting a tight hold there.

Justice ministers from around the world are gathered in Palermo to sign a treaty to strengthen laws against money-laundering, corruption and people-trafficking.

Italy, like all other countries, is ever more enmeshed in an international network of trans-national organised crime

Anti-Mafia Italian MP Tana de Zulueta
But on the eve of the conference a report, leaked from the prosecutor's office in the island, details the way the Mafia are infiltrating a new generation of business and political leaders in Sicily.

Its onslaught on Italy in the early 1990s, in which top anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were assassinated, sparked a determined backlash from the Italian authorities.

By breaking the Mafia code of silence - omerta - and getting members to turn on their colleagues, the state seemed to have broken the back of the organisation.

Palermo was regarded the capital of the anti-Mafia fightback.

And there have been important advances. The number of murders in the city has fallen in a decade from an average of 240 to less than 10 - most of which were unconnected with Mafia crime.


But, according to the leaked report, far from being smashed the Mafia appears to have rebuilt its networks, with nearly 200 clans operating with more than 5,000 members.

Toto Riina before he was jailed
A Mafia museum just opened in Palermo shows the boss of bosses Toto Riina
A world of lightning-fast communication helps crimes like money-laundering and trafficking in humans, drugs and weapons.

The UN's introduction of new powers seems more urgent than ever.

Tana de Zulueta, a member of the Italian parliament's anti-Mafia committee, admits there are problems.

"Italy, like all other countries, is ever more enmeshed in an international network of trans-national organised crime, with the Sicilian and other local Mafiosi linked to other organisations in other countries and therefore harder to beat unless there's better co-operation," she said.

Tight security

Italian troops and paramilitary police have set up road blocks in a massive security clampdown ahead of the four-day UN conference.

Mafia museum
The museum's aim was to put the Mafia firmly in the past
UN member states are to sign the convention against transnational organised crime, adopted by the UN General Assembly last month.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and several heads of state will also be present at the event.

Opening the conference, Mr Annan said:" If crime crosses all borders, so must law enforcement.

"If the rule of law is undermined not only in one country, but in many, then those who defend it cannot limit themselves purely to national means," he added.

The document will become effective once ratified by the parliaments of at least 40 countries.

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See also:

14 Nov 00 | Europe
Mafia 'gripping Italian economy'
04 Apr 00 | Europe
Sicilian Mafia supergrass dies
22 Mar 00 | Europe
Blow in fight against Mafia
19 Jan 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Living with the Mafia
19 Jul 98 | Europe
Mafiosi jailed for life
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