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Kofi Annan
"If crime crosses all borders, so must law and order"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 23:07 GMT
UN tackles organised crime
UN anti-organised crime treaty
The UN hopes to increase international cooperation
Agreements designed to fight international money laundering and people smuggling have been signed at the end of the first day of a UN conference on organised crime.

The conference is being held in Palermo in Sicily - and the agreements will help the fight against the activities of new international crime gangs that are slowly replacing the traditional Sicilian mafia in southern Europe.

Among the first signatories were the presidents or prime ministers of several Balkan countries including Albania, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, opened the meeting with a warning that international crime syndicates have wasted no time in embracing the global economy and the new technology that goes with it.

The number of terrorists, drug dealers and traffickers in people are growing, he said, and thriving in countries with weak institutions.

Tough measures

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a senior deputy to sign both accords, which were also signed by Italy, Bolivia and Uganda.

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan warned that organised crime is thriving
The agreement tackling money laundering requires the signatories to improve the regulation of their financial institutions, lift bank secrecy laws and ban anonymous bank accounts.

But the meeting has been overshadowed by reports that the traditional Mafia is again exerting a tight hold in Sicily.

On the eve of the conference a report, leaked from the prosecutor's office in the island, detailed the way the Mafia are infiltrating a new generation of business and political leaders.

Backlash

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.

Giovanni Falcone
Prosecutor Giovanni Falcone was murdered in 1992
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. 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.

Urgent measures

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," she said.

"The Sicilian and other local Mafiosi (are) linked to other organisations in other countries and therefore harder to beat unless there's better co-operation," she added.

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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
12 Dec 00 | Americas
Sex slavery: One woman's story
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