35. Interview #3 Italian Mafia & Corruption W/ Alberto M S Puglia - Part 2

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[00:00:05] Hugh Sifu: All right. Welcome back to Thoughts of a Random Citizen. I'm your host, as always, Hugh Sifu, and we have Alberto back today for part two of the conversation that you guys heard last week, and it covers the exciting topic of the Italian Mafia. It's a really good conversation, so hopefully, you guys enjoy. Before I play that, as always, it really helps if you guys share or like or rate this podcast.

If you want to do that for me, that'd be fantastic. Other than that, please, please enjoy this excellent interview with Alberto. Cool. All right, now on to what I'm really excited to talk about, the mafia and stuff, from my understanding, you guys have three different kinds of police. They somehow, this is just from my understanding of the people I've talked to here, compete with each other. Can you explain this a bit more? Is it good? Is it effective? Why do you guys have so many different kinds of police?

[00:01:09] Alberto: Because we are very a Baroquen culture and because we love to overcomplicate everything. Actually, we don't have three police forces, we have five-plus, five-plus. I'll try to summarize it even if it's not easy. Let's start with a funny note. First, they're dressing very differently, one to the other. Policia, the civil police, the main police let's call it like that.

[00:01:39] Hugh: That's all one police force, correct? Everything you just said was one police force, the Policia?

[00:01:44] Alberto: Yes, Policia is one of the three police forces main, and they dress in blue, and many of them have a nice belly. I'm just joking because it's the main and general police force. Then we have Carabinieri, which is part of the army, and they are the guys dressed in black, and they normally have trousers with a red stripe, easy to spot. The third one is Guardia di Finanza, it's basically the Economic and Finance police, and they specialize into financial and financial-related crime, tax evasions. Then there are some subjects which are covered by the three of them at the same time. That's probably what you were referring to when you talked about drugs. Sorry.

[00:02:39] Hugh: Hey, man. Come on.

[00:02:40] Alberto: That's probably what you were referring to when you were talking about competition, for example, repression of drug-related crimes is on each of them. Each of the police, Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza is in charge of repressing drug-related crime.

[00:03:00] Hugh: Even the financial guys are also in charge of--

[00:03:03] Alberto: They have the best sniffer dogs.

[00:03:05] Hugh: Perfect.

[00:03:08] Alberto: Then apart from these three police forces, you also have the so-called penitentiary police. Policia Penitenciare, which is basically the Policia for the correctional institutes or the jails. Then you have the Rangers, which is technically a police force, the so-called Guardia Forestale, they take care mainly of nature and nature-related crime. Apart from those, you also have local police.

Each and every town has one or two or three offices of local police, which are mainly in charge of traffic and very local matters, public order in a very local meaning. The main objective of Policia is to keep the country safe, let's say, to keep social order and to keep the country secure. They're balanced by Carabinieri because of a historical reason. Also in order to avoid the imbalances and possibly coups from one or the other side, Policia is linked and it's ruled by the Ministry of Interior, while the Carabinieri are ruled by the Ministry of Defense, so they're technically part of the army.

[00:04:35] Hugh: The Ministry of Interior is like homeland, it's internal.

[00:04:39] Alberto: Correct. They keep the border safe. That's one of the roles of Policia and then in terms of public order, Carabinieri are somehow subordinated to Policia, meaning that the main responsibility of public order is on police, but then also Carabinieri have a role on that, depending on the specific situations. Each of these forces also have special forces inside, from political crimes to, as we said, drug-related, and then you were mentioning before, mafia and criminal organizations, you said that I have a passion for it. Saying that I have a passion for mafia is a bit of a [crosstalk]

[00:05:26] Hugh: You can clarify if you want.

[00:05:27] Alberto: Just to clarify, I have a passion because, in fact, criminal organizations are a big part of our history and current situation. It's something you should not avoid to know and something you should be aware of. You should know the history of it, and you should know the impact of it. As a personal interest, I read a bit about mafia and criminal organizations, and I try to build the knowledge for myself that allows me to better understand some of the phenomenons happening here in this country.

[00:06:04] Hugh: Yes, 100%. I'm a huge history guy myself. That's why the first half of this was history because it's obviously super beneficial to know about where we came from and why we're here today. Not mafia. Do you think it's good, essentially, that there's such complexity because I know that you said the initial intent to create so many different police forces were to lessen the corruption? Do you think that that's effective?

[00:06:36] Alberto: No, Italy is one of the most corrupted countries in the world, we cannot hide it. I would really like to say that it's not like that, but this is the reality. Italy is an extremely corrupted country, and it's also a very criminal country. We have a huge problem with criminal organizations. Criminal organizations are everywhere, including politics, economics, we have so many mafioso in white-collar.

Apart from the very funny part of it that you can see through TV series like the Sopranos or whatever, it's part of the culture, it's fun. The Godfather, nice music, nice atmosphere, Sicily is beautiful, Southern Italy is beautiful. The reality is that this is a tragedy, and this has been a tragedy for so long. I always love to quote, in this respect, the two Italian judges, who were worldwide known: Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were both killed in the early '90s, in 1992.

They used to say that mafia is a human phenomenon and, as any other human phenomenon, it will have an end. We don't know when, we don't know how, it's certainly a huge war, a huge challenge, but it needs a changing culture and knowledge. It requires people to know what happened, it requires people why their lives are so miserable in certain aspects, and we need a cultural switch. I also like to quote a Sicilian writer, who to the question, "Do you think that defeating mafia requires the army?" he answered, "I think it requires an army of school teachers."

[00:08:37] Hugh: I can totally agree with that. In regards to the entire cultural change that you're referring to, which I absolutely think that education would play a major part in it, there was another author, I don't know if it's the same one that you were quoting before this, Gattopardo. I'm butchering that. I'm still not good at Italian.

[00:08:59] Alberto: Yes. It's a fantastic novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa. There's also a fantastic movie by Luchino Visconti with the same title. It says a lot about the origins of mafia and the impact of mafia in cultural terms. It's also linked to the history of Sicilian noble families. One of the quotes that we were talking about before his podcast is, in order for everything to stay as it is, we need everything to change.

What we saw in the history of Italy and Italian criminal organizations is that no matter who is ruling Italy, no matter who's ruling from outside, no matter what war is happening, there are certain interests and certain cultural issues that will never change and that will always adapt to what's going on.

[00:09:54] Hugh: Do you think that whole changing aspect is going to be difficult because you joked earlier about how South Italy in their formation of the government today, there was an invasion, but they just were okay with just letting it happen? You guys just chill in your areas, and you're fine with whatever happens on the outside. Do you think that plays a part, and are people awake and willing to change the corruption of the mafia in Italy?

[00:10:25] Alberto: Many people feel useless in this respect. Many people think that this is not their problem. Many other people are well aware but sometimes feel defeated and lonely. If you Google the videos of the funeral services for the judges that I mentioned before, there was a people revolution against the state. There was a state funeral, in particular, for Paolo Borsellino, the second of the judges who was killed by mafia.

The people wanted not to allow the head of state at the time and some ministries to enter the church because people thought, and I honestly agree with them, that the state did not do enough to save the life of Mr. Paolo Borsellino. He was the only one that could really continue the fight against mafia at the time, he was left alone, isolated, and killed.

There's a long history about that, and it's a wide, wide subject.

In recent years, finally, in Italy, we started to talk about the so-called state-mafia agreement because, in those years, in the '90s, what we found out in recent years is that part of the states were in the mafia, part of the mafia was in the state, and the relations were really not clear. They're still not clear, but what is sure, what comes from the documents of various trials on the subject is that they were part of the police who were deciding at the same tables with mafia gangsters what to do in certain respects.

[00:12:23] Hugh: Wow. Essentially, they are still involved today in governments because I know that you were telling me that there's now a law if there's income suspicion, but is that really that effective?

[00:12:37] Alberto: There are still many very heroic judges and government men or state men risking their lives to make the truth evident, to make the truth appear. There are some laws that allow the government to basically forfeit local elections if they find out that part of the elected people are somehow linked to the criminal organizations. It's not enough, it's not enough because, in my view, the criminal organizations and the state are so linked and so interconnected that in order to break those links, we would need a systemic change.

[00:13:26] Hugh: Meaning systemic, breaking away from the current 1861 formation of your government systemic change?

[00:13:33] Alberto: No, calling for a revolution.

[laughter]

[00:13:38] Hugh: All right, that makes sense. It's pretty much the same thing in the US as well. Governments everywhere, where there's power, there's corruption. I don't think anyone's quite figured out how to--

[00:13:51] Alberto: Let me add one thing. You say corruption and criminal organization. I see it in a different way because, in Italy, in fact, the pure corruption, the basic corruption, a bribe given to a politically exposed person in order to obtain a certain result is something also carried outside the criminal organizations. This is the corruption I was talking in the very beginning.

This is one of the most corrupted countries in the world because it's in the culture also to skip the power or to skip the official means in order to obtain certain results. Mafia is even more than that. When we say mafia, we should have another podcast about it, but when we say mafia, we're talking about several criminal organizations, there is mafia, there's Camorra, there's 'Ndrangheta, there's Sacra Corona Unita and a few other minor criminal organizations.

[00:14:53] Hugh: Would that be comparable to gangs in the US that have quite a lot of drug lords?

[00:14:58] Alberto: We're talking about trillion-dollar corporations.

[00:15:03] Hugh: Oh, fantastic.

[00:15:04] Alberto: We're talking about when we talk about, for example, 'Ndrangheta, which its origins in Calabria regions on the foot of the boot, we're talking about the most powerful criminal organization in terms of drug dealing, drug trafficking. We're talking about guys who are ruling the drug trade worldwide, except for Asia maybe because this is really another world.

We're talking about the guys buying tons and tons and tons of drugs from South American and bringing them to Europe. We're talking about a quantity of money that is not comparable to anything else.

[00:15:50] Hugh: Jeez. I understand that mafioso that's actually the mafia was originally what they called someone who was just suspicious of central authority. I guess, how did the mafia, as they used to exist in the origins drastically, obviously, change from how it is today?

[00:16:13] Alberto: The history of mafia 10 books', at least, history.

[00:16:17] Hugh: Yes, it's consolidated.

[00:16:20] Alberto: The word "mafioso" actually in its origins in Sicilian is a good word. Mafioso, I cannot remember the actual translation, but what I can tell you is that Mafioso meant someone very energetic and positive in terms of personal expression. You could also call a woman mafiosa meaning that wow, she's really mafiosa, meaning that she was very energetic and beautiful and powerful.

Mafia has a long, long, long history. The Sicilian mafia has a long history. Maybe we can refer to a phase around the unification of Italy. We're talking about maybe mid-19th century when the first mafia phenomenons were mainly linked to agriculture, to the control of water, to the control of some resources in a region where there was a lack of government and official power.

The situation was so complicated that some powerful people started to control all things that were meant to be controlled by the state. That's one of the origins of the phenomenon that then changed along decades based on the political situation, adapted to the situation until it became such a large criminal organization that started to control parts of the state, as I was saying before.

[00:18:02] Hugh: Obviously, it used to be an aspect of protecting families in their towns, to an extent, but then--

[00:18:10] Alberto: This is the main excuse that the criminal organizations always use. They, of course, rely upon weaknesses of people and the people in need, and the first soldiers of criminal organizations are people in search for their bread to survive, looking to survive. As I was saying before, when the state is not there and when education is not there, it's very, very easy for a criminal organization to gain consensus among people.

That's also the reason why I fear a political and European system where certain basic services like healthcare, social security, and education are reviewed in terms of spending because we need to stay into certain numbers. That's very, very dangerous for certain countries and situations and regions.

[00:19:11] Hugh: Can you elaborate on that a bit more in meaning? I guess I didn't understand your stance regarding how healthcare and education should be appropriated.

[00:19:21] Alberto: Much, much more. I'm, very, very inclined to think that social security, healthcare, education should be public and universal, but that's my personal opinion. Especially in countries where if the state is lacking or is missing on certain needs of the people, then criminal organizations are well ready to replace the state.

[00:19:52] Hugh: Do you think that that is something that the Italian government should control or the European Union should control in regards to healthcare and education? I guess, who's in charge of that now?

[00:20:02] Alberto: In charge of that now it's the single member state. It's the single member state to decide how much to finance schools and hospitals, et cetera, but then in the framework of agreements with the European Union to keep certain economic indicators at certain levels.

[00:20:23] Hugh: Essentially, they can give more or less depending on how their independent state's doing. I think I've already briefed this, but how ingrained is the Italian Mafia or the mafia in the Italian government and/or the European Union, in an honest opinion because, obviously, you say it's very prevalent, you fear it, education is a primary thing to change it, which makes me think that it's obviously still extremely integrated with the Italian government?

[00:20:54] Alberto: Yes, it's everywhere. I'm very worried to say that it's like that, but it's like that. You have criminal organizations within the police, you have criminal organizations within ministries, public offices, judges, everywhere. They are everywhere, not only in Italy. In this respect, I'd like to quote the head of the judicial office in charge of contrasting or challenging 'Ndrangheta, which is the other criminal organization that I was mentioning before.

Nicola Gratteri, to me, is one of the most heroic and courageous judges we currently have in Italy. He is the head of the Procura della Repubblica di Catanzaro. It's a city in Calabria, and he is the guy really fighting the 'Ndrangheta organization. During one of his speeches, he was referring to the fact that apart from Italy and apart from Southern Italy, the country where 'Ndrangheta is mostly present is Germany. In Germany, they do not have a specialized judicial office to contrast and to challenge this criminal organization. It's like they're denying the existence of this phenomenon.

[00:22:18] Hugh: The German government is?

[00:22:20] Alberto: Yes. These guys, these 'Ndrangheta guys were the authors of the so-called Strada Jeduratzburg, a nice city and very calm city in Germany was flooded with blood because of a 'Ndrangheta war between families. It's like this opened their eyes. We certainly know that these criminal organizations are there, are ruling part of the economy as well because they have so much money, as I was saying before that they really need to reinvest this money everywhere. In Germany, they're doing basically nothing. There is not a specialized police force.

[00:23:07] Hugh: What would the motivation be to not acknowledge that they exist? Is it because they're putting money into the German economy? I just don't understand.

[00:23:16] Alberto: No. Once in my life, I will defend the Germans.

[00:23:21] Hugh: Cool. [laughs] I'm okay with that man. I like the Germans.

[00:23:23] Alberto: I will defend the Germans, saying that the phenomenon is probably so complicated and so tough to understand that if it's not part of your culture, you really need a lot of time and a lot of shocks before really understanding what's going on. I was referring to 'Ndrangheta because I think it's very interesting. We know a lot about Sicilian Mafia. We know quite a lot about Camorra, the Naples, let's call it a criminal organization.

Also thanks to writers, to people who found informations about these criminal organizations and published them, or because of trials documents that we have. About 'Ndrangheta we don't know much. We still don't know much. If you listen to this guy, to Nicola Gratteri, he will give you some information also about the structure of this criminal organization, which is heavily complicated.

It's made in a way that the moment you're trying to understand how it's working, they're already changing. I guess they're not trying to help or to support the criminal organization, they're not passively accepting it, it's just they're not prepared. They're not prepared culturally, and maybe they're not prepared to invest in fighting and in challenging these criminal organizations because they don't see their lives changing because of that.

[00:24:59] Hugh: The Germans, you mean?

[00:25:00] Alberto: Yes. By the way, it's been in [German language]

[00:25:05] Hugh: …Yes.

[laughter]

I was going to try to think of the two German words I know, but it's like [German language]

[00:25:14] Alberto: No. I basically said I've been in Germany once and I learned German.

[00:25:18] Hugh: Oh, really? You speak amazing English.

[00:25:21] Alberto: No, no, no. Don't say that. It's very poor.

J[00:25:23] Hugh: No. The last question and then I'll get us out of here. Essentially, you were saying how the mafia has such a vast amount of resources in regards to money specifically. How much of that is essentially lost from the taxes, and how much do you think that the Italian government and people are losing from the businesses that they just run? Do you know what I mean? Do you think it's that predominant?

[00:25:54] Alberto: From official accounts, if we look at official accounts and we look at official numbers, the loss is unbelievably big. It's incredible. Maybe around 30% of the Italian economy is a black economy. When we say black, we're underwater.

[00:26:15] Hugh: Underground.

[00:26:17] Alberto: Underground.

[00:26:18] Hugh: Same, same.

[00:26:18] Alberto: Part of this money is flowing back in the economy somehow because, of course, the guys will not keep all their money in a safe. They will re-invest the money in the economy also to clean it, to wash it. In terms of actual loss, I'm not able to say. In terms of fiscal loss and paying taxes, it's around 30%.

[00:26:46] Hugh: Jesus.

[00:26:47] Alberto: It's not only criminal organizations but also personal tax evasions, so people which are unlinked to the criminal organizations. In this respect, I have to say that based on my international experiences, I've seen that every single country has an underground economy and maybe much more than we would think. In Italy, we have tight regulations about the use of cash, for example, while you don't have that in Germany, you don't have that in Luxemburg, you don't have it in many other countries in the world.

[00:27:27] Hugh: Is that an attempt to essentially stop the loss of--

[00:27:31] Alberto: Yes. To trace all payments and avoid cash payments in an attempt to make the underground economy emerge back to light. I don't know how effective it is because large criminal organizations or main tax evaders really know how to hide their money even if it's electronic. Correct.

[00:27:55] Hugh: [crosstalk] shell companies, offshore accounts. That's not a bad idea, I guess because I always try to think of solutions to every issue, as I'm assuming most people do. Essentially, what I'm getting out of this is education. I think that honestly, the money tracing and lack of cash might be beneficial in the future. Yes, no, maybe so?

[00:28:21] Alberto: For sure, money tracing is very useful and beneficial when we're talking about small things. Are you sure you can trace money from large international corporations? I'm not sure that you can. Sometimes large organizations are so powerful that they will always find a way to hide their money or to move their money so to avoid taxes, and this is widely accepted all over the world. Let's not, we say in Italian, hide behind a finger. You cannot hide behind a finger. Let's admit that the old financial system is made in a way that the bigger you are, the more you can cheat.

[00:29:07] Hugh: 100%, which we, I think, are in the beginning stages of maybe changing that a bit worldwide, but we also might be changing it for the worst. I'm not really sure what's going on with that scenario. My only last thought was that if they can fucking track how many seconds you look at something on your phone and then continue, I'm assuming they can freaking have enough information to track where every dollar comes and goes from, but it's just whether they prosecute or follow--

[00:29:42] Alberto: Is there a real interest in doing that?

[00:29:43] Hugh: Yes, exactly. That's what I'm saying. While it could be potentially beneficial for that, is it really worth the privacy loss of allowing an entity to view every single thing we do? I do always want to end on two things. One, if you could give any piece of advice about anything in the world, what would it be? You were not prepared for this. Just if there's one thing that you've learned on this earth and you can sum it up, what would that piece of advice be?

[00:30:21] Alberto: Wow. That's a big, big question. Never put Parmigiano on seafood.

[laughter]

[00:30:29] Hugh: Perfect. That is all I was asking for. Actually, I learned that the other day because I asked for the Parmesan literally, and I hardly ever even put cheese on my stuff, but for some reason, I was like, "I bet this would go really good." I asked Greta's mom. I said, "Can I get the Parmesan?" She just looked at me. I was like, "No?" [crosstalk] "No, no, no, you don't put the Parmesan on seafood." I was like, "What?" Yes, that is 100% a thing.

[00:30:58] Alberto: No, it's me saying thanks to you. It's been a wonderful time. I hope the information that I gave were useful to your audience and to yourself. Of course, as I said in the beginning, I was not expecting to give full-fledged answers because all the subjects that you touched are quite wide and complicated. I specialize professionally in very few subjects where you touched.

[00:31:29] Hugh: [crosstalk] the world pretty much. Again, I appreciate it so much. I will hopefully someday get you back on, and we can maybe even dive more into the financial side of things, which I know you have a bit more expertise on.

[00:31:43] Alberto: Yes, with pleasure.

[00:31:44] Hugh: That would be excellent. Is there any place people can reach you before we head off?

[00:31:49] Alberto: Oh, yes, with pleasure. I will share my email address with them. It's A-M-S.puglia, which is my region and it's spelled P-U-G-L-I-A@gmail.com, so A-M-S.puglia, P-U-G-L-I-A, @gmail.com.

[00:32:11] Hugh: Perfect. I will throw that in the show notes for anyone who did not catch that, just scroll down and click if you are interested in getting in touch. Alberto, thank you so much. I know that having an interview about complex issues in a language other than your native language is quite difficult. Thank you so much for that and best of luck with your new firm.

[00:32:35] Alberto: Thank you. Bye.

[00:32:37] Hugh: All right, guys. That concludes part two of this two-part interview. If you guys didn't hear the first interview, go check it out. It is fantastic and quite informational. Other than that, I am actually just now, by the time this is being played in your ears, finishing up my road trip throughout Italy. Next week will probably be maybe just a two-minute episode, even if that and then I'll get back into the swing of things after that. Otherwise, I'll talk to you guys and let you know how the trip is going. Have a good week, cheers.

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