Tackling Human Trafficking [The Barrister Magazine]


[As published on The Barrister Magazine: http://www.barristermagazine.com/article-listing/current-issue/tackling-human-trafficking.html]

Recently human trafficking has returned in the UK media spotlight, as a study by the Centre of Social Justice has been published denouncing the Government’s failure to tackle this complex form of transational crime.

The internationally recognised definition of ‘human trafficking’ can be found in the Palermo Protocol (Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children) to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the Protocol entered into force in 2003):

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs… The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.”

This complex definition seeks to capture the chain of trafficking which includes the act, the means to carry out the act and the purpose of the act. Therefore, the definition should be understood as follows:

1) The act: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons

2) The means:by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person

3) The purpose:for the purpose of exploitation“. “Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

It should be noted that, in each one of the three limbs of the definition, the elements listed are alternatives to be satisfied. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, a victim of human trafficking does not necessarily need to have ‘travelled’ or have been ‘transferred’. In fact, the mere recruitment is sufficient to satisfy the first limb of the definition – provided the subsequent other two limbs are satisfied too. Similarly, in the second limb of the definition, it is not necessary to prove that the victim was subjected to violence or threat of violence: other forms of coercion which satisfy the legal threshold, which are more of a psychological nature rather than physical, include the abuse of a position of vulnerability (e.g. an individual who offers to “help” an orphan). Finally, exploitation is commonly correlated to prostitution. In reality, the variety of forms of exploitation is far wider and includes the exploitation of individuals in cannabis factories, as well as in otherwise legitimate enterprises such as the textile industry (e.g. where workers are unpaid, paid under the minimum wage or made to work in unsafe and illegal conditions).

Of course, for human trafficking to be identified, all three limbs of the definition must be satisfied. This is the most complex aspect since one or more stages of the chain of human trafficking can easily be concealed. The greatest problem of this form of crime is the difficulty posed in identifying the victims and the crime itself. Often a victim might even be confused as a perpetrator, since the police might come across them for the first time in the context of the commission of a criminal offence, such as cultivating cannabis.

On 6 April 2013, the European Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims will come into force in UK, meaning that that is the deadline by which the country must fully implement it. Some of the key changes that will be brought about by this welcome piece of legislation are requirements for/to:

  • the establishment a dedicated national anti-slavery agency or Rapporteur
  • the establishment of an EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator
  • increase public awareness of human trafficking
  • set up special measures for the protection of victims and, in particular, of minors
  • the revision of definitions relating to human trafficking offences to cover a broader range of cases, to include the commission of offences within the UK territory or by UK nationals outside of the UK territory
  • the establishment of a system by which prosecution and punishment of defendants later identified as victims of human trafficking may be dropped where it is proven that their commission of criminal offences is correlated to their status as human trafficking victims.

The Crown Prosecution Service has recently published a new set of guidelines on Human Trafficking taking into account the European Directive soon coming into force. The UK needs to also work hard in cooperation with other EU Member States on raising awareness amongst officials dealing with immigrants, such as those at the UK Border Agency, as well as members of the criminal justice system including judges that all too often misunderstand the nature of this complex crime.

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Calabria’s ‘Ndrangeta Controls 80% EU Drug Trafficking [Source: La Repubblica]


CASE STORY by GIOVANNI TIZIAN and FABIO TONACCI

Duisburg, province of Reggio Calabria

The ‘Ndrangeta find a second home

SOURCE: http://inchieste.repubblica.it/en/repubblica/rep-it/italian-stories/2012/06/22/news/duisburg_province_of_reggio_calabria_the_ndrangeta_find_a_second_home-37716458/

From the province on the Straits of Messina, the organization has spread throughout most of the Old World: Spain, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe. But especially, Germany. 80% of drug trafficking is in its hands. Dominating the local areas as it does in the motherland. Even if the Germans apparently haven’t noticed “Good evening!” yells the godfather. “Good evening”, the six local men sitting around the table chorus in response. Salvatore Femia takes a deep breath and then recites the formula. “My belly is a tomb, my chest is a shovel, with words of humility the company is formed.” The summit of the family of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian-based mafia, can now begin. In the back room of Femia’s restaurant the “Rikaro”, the talk is all of contracts and of doing business with the Russians. They mention “Mamma”. The police bugs also record the muffled voices of the customers in the next room of the restaurant at 3 Hegaustrasse. It is eight o’clock in the evening of 20 December, 2009. And in Singen, a small town of 45,000 in southern Germany, 2,000 km north of “Mamma” Reggio Calabria, it is a chilly evening. How much do we really about know the European infiltration of Italy’s most powerful mafia organisation, which is catching up to that of Russia in terms of turnover?

 

Germany, province of Reggio Calabria

The ‘Ndrangheta now controls 80% of drug trafficking in Europe. According to the National Anti-Mafia Directorate it earns 27 billion euros a year from drugs alone. It has colonized the whole of the EU using two basic methods: the long-established emigration from Calabria and business. Importing and distributing cocaine and heroin, it invests in real estate and tourist resorts, buying up companies and shares, practising extortion and dealing in arms. U. S. government experts rank this criminal multinational fourth in the list of the world’s most dangerous organizations, after Al Qaeda, the PKK and the Mexican narco- traffickers. And Germany is its second home. The province of Constanta, where Singen is located, is home to 7,000 immigrants, 40% of Calabrian origin. They arrived on German soil as part of the great wave of 1959 that brought 200,000 Italians to the industrial districts of North Rhine-Westphalia. Radolfzell, a town of 33,000, is another Singen. On the surface it seems as placid as the waters of Lake Constance, on which stands. But an anonymous building on Öschlestrasse was the meeting place for some of the members of the ‘Ndrangheta arrested in the Reggio Calabria anti-mafia prosecutor’s Crimine 2 inquiry. An inquiry that told Germany a truth that it had ignored, even if it had been under its nose. And that was that the Duisburg massacre of mid-August 2007, the last act of the San Luca feud that spilt the blood of the six members of the Pelle-Vottari ‘ndrina, or branch, was no isolated incident. It was not just italienish stuff. As early as 2006 a report by the Bundesnachritendienst, the German secret services, had pointed out that the ‘Ndrangheta had made a quantum leap, buying shares in Gazprom and other energy companies. Three years later, in 2009, the Federal Police stated that in Germany there were at least 230 ‘ndrine with 1800 members, mostly located in Bavaria, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. Five locali or families had set up in Ravensburg, Frankfurt, Engen, Rielasingen and Singen. The Pelle, Nirta-Strangio, Vottari and Romeo families, all from San Luca, had invested millions of euros in Berlin, Cologne and Munich. In Cologne it was the Morabito from Africo, and in Stuttgart a group from Crotone had – it was suspected – set up a locale. “As well as investing”, says Michele Prestipino, deputy anti-mafia prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, “they control the area through extortion and intimidation, just as in Calabria and around Milan. They demand protection money, and not only from Calabrian immigrants. They decide who should get the vote of Italians abroad.” But how is a locale created abroad? And what relationship does it have with the gangs in Italy?

 

Mamma is always Mamma

“The French, German and Spanish governments don’t want to admit to being infected by the ‘Ndrangheta because organised crime brings money with it”, claims Luigi Bonaventura, sitting at the dining room table in the house in Termoli given to him by the witness protection programme. (“Yes, you can write that I’m in Termoli, because everyone knows by now, including those who are trying to kill me.”) Bonaventure is not just any turncoat. Five years ago he was the head of the Vrenna-Bonaventure gang of Crotone, then decided to collaborate with the authorities. “The ‘Ndrangheta has spread everywhere, but its head remains in the province of Reggio Calabria, the “Mamma” is always there”, he says. “And its real strength lies in its ability to adapt. It only takes two or three people to form a ‘ndrina. At first they have a certain autonomy, they may experiment with different criminal models, form alliances with the local underworld, adopt different strategies. But once the business reaches a certain volume, there is no escape…” Criminal models with variable geometry, but always within the boundaries drawn up by the patriarchs of the Organization. And whereas a shipment of cocaine or a property investment may not require the approval of head office, the opening of a local branch, the awarding of promotion or regulating relations between foreign clans must be discussed at the Reggio Calabria Crimine, a sort of underworld board of directors that coordinates the ‘Ndrangheta worldwide. “They have set up dozens of locali in Germany. They have money in Switzerland”, Bonaventure continues, “in the Netherlands and Belgium they control the ports. On the Côte d’Azur they have villas; they are investing in the tourism sector in Bulgaria; in the Balkan they control the drug routes. It’s not difficult to see how the ‘Ndrangheta spreads; just follow the money.”

 

Swiss companies and Italian Real Estate

And the wallets full of dirty money in the pockets of the bosses, estimated by Italian research institute Eurispes to be worth 44 billion euros in 2008, lead to Switzerland, to the banks and the world of high finance where the Ndrangheta’s loot is hidden. Prosecutor Michele Prestipino explains: “Some clans from the Tyrrhenian coast open companies in Zurich which hold securities and real estate in Italy, to evade the taxman and controls.” Italian anti-mafia investigators have identified two clans in Zurich and Frauenfeld. The “Crimine 2” investigation uncovered a character, “Ntoni lo svizzero” a. k. a. Antonio Nesci, distant cousin of the head of the Singen clan, Salvatore Femia. Investigators listened to him on the phone explaining that in Mossendorf, a Swiss village with a population of 3,000, he can count on five people, “men at my disposal”, he says. In the valleys around Zurich the gang leaders are mainly out on bail, free to manage companies and restaurants in their own names. Like Ferrazzo, the boss of the Catanzaro ndrina, in the Canton of Zurich. The money and interests of the Bellocco family of Rosarno and the Gallico and Parrello families of Palmi pass through Switzerland. These are the same clans that, a few thousand miles to the south, divided up the contracts in the years of the construction of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway.

 

Allied with everyone and no one

“The ‘Ndrangheta has no problem doing business with people of every race and nation”, turncoat Saverio Morabito explained a few years ago to magistrates. It works with and exploits of all foreign criminal organisations, but never forms any real alliances. It is within this context, opportunistic and parasitical, that the networks created to control the major ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona and Piraeus, the entry points for drugs coming into Europe, must be understood. A recent confidential report by the Dutch police states that: “Between Amsterdam, Hoofddorp, Diemen and Amstelveen there are at least twenty Calabrian bosses and about a hundred ‘Ndrangheta gang members dealing in weapons, heroin, cocaine and pills. They have luxury apartments in Minerva Square in Amsterdam and carry out their business undisturbed because the Dutch government is not aware of their criminal pasts.” They are connected to the Nirta-Strangio and Romeo families of San Luca (Giovanni Strangio, a leading figure in the Duisburg massacre, was arrested March 12, 2009 here in the suburb of Diemen) and to the ndrine of Ciro and Corigliano Calabro. The report says that the ‘Ndrangheta has contacts with the five most dangerous criminals in the Netherlands. And that is not all. To control the port of Rotterdam, where 30% of all the cocaine from Colombia arrives (about 36,000 kilos comes in every year on ships, hidden in containers of fruit), it exploits a strategic alliance with the Albanian mafia. And it obtains information and impunity by infiltrating its people into the police, people like Barbara Fun, a 39-year-old Dutch woman who, thanks to friends in the secret services, was able to work in the Haaglanden Regional Police until 2010, despite being arrested in Portugal in 1992 along with two members of the Di Giovane-Serraino clan. The ‘Ndrangheta has been talking to the Russian mafia since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The “language” is always the same, weapons and cocaine. On the Balkan drug route, which starts in Afghanistan and passes through Greece, Romania, Albania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the ‘Ndrangheta has links to all the indigenous criminal groups. The mafia of Serbia-Montenegro offered to deliver heroin and cocaine directly to the Calabrese in Milan. The Magna Charta operation of the Carabinieri Special Operations Group, which on 4 June last year led to the arrest of thirty smugglers across Europe, exposed the axis that was created for transport by sea between a Piedmont gang affiliated to the Bellocco of Rosarno and the businessman Evelin Banev, suspected of being one of the leaders of the Bulgarian mafia. Luigi Bonaventura told Repubblica: “My uncle Sergio Vrenna also has business with the Bulgarian mafia, sharing with them the “code of the knife”, the mafia code of honour. Just go and look at the Calabrian real estate investments in the Black Sea coastal resorts. All ours.” And then there is Barcelona.

 

Barcelona, the new Marseille

The Catalan capital is the new crossroads of the European mafias. “We are all there, it’s like Marseille in the 80s”, members of the ‘Ndrangheta have been saying for years. In Barcelona we have the Calabrian clan of the Piromalli-Mole of Gioia Tauro, the Camorra clans of the Licciardi Secondigliano, the Di Lauro clan and the Frizziero of Naples. Then there are the emissaries from the Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers, whose cocaine joint venture with the Ndrangheta is now established and operating smoothly. Here in the restaurants around the Ramblas they fix the price of the large shipments of drugs arriving from South America. The last to end up in jail was Carmelo Gallico, 48, known as “U Picu”, head of the gang of the same name from Palmi. He was hiding in a house in the university district of Barcelona ?? and fictitiously investing in property in Italy. Spanish soil was rendered fertile by a particular character: Santo Maesano, a. k. a. Hoffa, a. k. a. the Professor, the head of the Maesano-Pavaglianiti Calabrian families. Francesco Forgione talks about him in his book “Mafia Export”. Having moved to Spain in the late nineties, Maesano was one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world. From Madrid’s Valdemoro prison he conducted business with his contacts in Colombia and Venezuela, bought weapons and entertained his deputy, Vincenzo Romeo. For him, Valdemoro prison was more like a rest home that a real prison. In Spain there is no special regime for mafia prisoners like Italy’s Article 41bis. In Switzerland crime bosses move around openly. In Germany even the wives of arrested ‘Ndrangheta members receive unemployment benefit of 365 euros a month. “And they are exempt from paying rent”, says Vito Giudicepietro, a representative of the Inca-CGIL welfare office in Singen, a point of reference for the Italian community. How is this possible? How is the ‘Ndrangheta being combated abroad?

 

In Europe the ‘Ndrangheta does not exist

The problem is that, technically, the mafia does not exist in the legal codes of European states. The crime of criminal association of a mafia nature only exists in Italy, introduced in 1982. Elsewhere belonging to a gang, being part of a recognized ‘ndrina, it is not a crime per se. Unless a specific crime is committed the police cannot seize mafia assets nor issue detention orders. “Organized crime is growing and we are blind”, was how French Police Commissioner Jean-Francois Gayraud summed up the situation to the European anti-mafia commission few days ago. According to Prestipino, “The lack of such laws is the biggest obstacle. In Europe, the institutions have trouble understanding the dangers of organised crime clans and their power to intimidate.” But something is changing. The DIA, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Department, is increasingly being used as a model by other police forces. The 111 requests sent in 2011 by the DIA to other European countries (34 to Spain, 27 to the Netherlands, 14 to Germany and 7 to Belgium) met with the kind of collaboration they deserved. And in Brussels the Director-General of OLAF (the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office), Giovanni Kessler, after reporting an increase of 10% in investigations into economic and financial crime by organized gangs, adopted a new line. “We need a single European entity with the power to investigate and prosecute. We need a European Prosecution service.” 22 giugno 2012 © Riproduzione riservata

Behind the Bars


Although it was not my first visit to a prison, it did not feel just like any other day. It was early, still pitch dark outside. Trying to figure out what clothes to wear was rather difficult. I knew it was sensible not to wear any low cut tops or short skirts (rather obvious), but I was also advised not to wear scarves or elegant clothes. I opted for a pair of jeans and a sweater. I also knew that I could not take anything possibly relating to computers, such as USB sticks or CDs, but also I couldn’t take in chewing gums which apparently are used by inmates to force the locks open (don’t ask me how!).

Waiting at the bus stop, there I was: standing in the freezing cold on my way to HMP Pentonville Prison in London.  Some notorious inmates of this prison have been George Michael and Pete Doherty (who also wrote a song called Pentonville). When I arrived, I was surprised to find that the building is very visible from the main road and houses are built very close-by. In fact, some of the cells’ windows can be easily seen from the road. I got in through the main entrance and had to get a Visitor’s pass after having had my fingerprints and a photograph taken by security. No mobile phones could go past security, so I left mine in a locker. Clearly, no cameras could be taken inside either so the photographs in this post were found online and were not taken by me.
When I walked in, accompanied by internal staff, it was the time of what is called ‘free flow’, that is, when cells are unlocked (I think different wings are unlocked in turns and not all cells are unlocked, e.g. those with high security regime) and prisoners are moving from one wing to another heading to whichever activity they’re meant to attend. These activities can be educational or simply taking a shower. ‘Free flow’ lasts for about half an hour and it takes place about twice every day. When it ends, everything is locked up again and inmates are either back in their cells or in another space where they’re undertaking an activity such as a workshop. I couldn’t help but notice that the great majority of inmates was either black or Asian, although there were a few whites too. From what I saw, most of them were also quite young.

Pentonville was the first prison in Great Britain to put into practice the enlightened ideas of the prison reformer, John Howard. Built in 1840-42 to the designs and under the direction of Major (later Sir) Joshua Jebb, Surveyor General of Prisons, it pioneered the separate housing of inmates in wings radiating out from a central hall. (Source: http://www.elton-engineeringbooks.co.uk/highlights/jebb.htm) The only time it stopped being used as a prison for English inmates was during the Second World War, when it was used to hold German prisoners. Other than that, it’s been actively in use since it was first opened.

Source: http://www.elton-engineeringbooks.co.uk/highlights/jebb.htm

Pentonville has 7 residential wings:

  • A wing – Induction and First Night Centre. This wing has recently been refurbished to cater for new arrivals into custody.
  • B wing – Resettlement wing
  • C and G Wings are for remand and convicted prisoners and provide services including education, workshops and offending behaviour courses
  • D Wing – Is the enhanced wing
  • E Wing – Substance Misuse Unit
  • F Wing – IDTS (Stabilisation Unit)

I walked through one of the wings (I am not actually sure which one it was, but I think it must have been either C or G) and I was surprised by the brightness of the spaces. Of course, the light is not as abundant in the cells. Some of the cells, those for vulnerable inmates, are actually in the basement and have no natural light. The prison was built for around 600 prisoners, however now the prisoners are more than 1200 and all cells (intended for one individual only) host two prisoners. Although I didn’t actually walk inside a cell, I could see they were tiny and there was barely room for a bunk bed and a table where prisoners eat. In fact, they collect food and eat in their own cells rather than in a shared canteen. Breakfast is collected together with the evening meal, but most of them apparently eat it in the evening or at night because they’re hungry and end up skipping breakfast the following morning. Some cells have a TV, which the inmates pay for. I was told that, although it seems like an excessive privilege, it is actually a very good weapon to use to make sure the prisoners behave well. In fact, I understood that the threat or the actual act of taking away the TV is sometimes more effective than any other threat. Clearly, spending so many hours locked up, the worst thing is making time go by without going crazy. It is also better to let them watch TV rather than get into fights with each other or using drugs (although they probably do it anyway, although Pentonville has gone down hard on the fight against drugs given the recent scandals).

I had the opportunity to see a classroom which was actually well equipped, with some computers, a board, large tables and chairs. The computers don’t have internet connection and even the staff’s own computers, which are located in separate sections of the wings, to which prisoners have no access, have limited access to internet. Although this might sound obvious, every single space is separated by locked gates which need to be unlocked to go through and locked immediately after. Even to simply access the staff’s toilet or a staircase, there will be one or two locked gates and doors to get through. On my way out, the food was being served for lunch and the smell was absolutely unpleasant and I surely did not feel hungry after that.

 Source: The Guardian

It was a very interesting experience, because, while one can imagine what a prison is like from all the films that depict life in prison, the reality is not as ‘cool’ as television and the cinema make it appear.

A report published in June 2011 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons), sadly confirms my general perception of the building’s state:

 “Pentonville is an iconic prison, but not always for the right reasons: its four central wings are over a hundred and fifty years old, it has a large and transient population drawn from some of London’s poorest boroughs, and its prisoners have amongst the highest incidence of mental ill health and substance abuse of any local prison in the country. […]Pentonville is amongst the most challenging local prisons in the country to run. Its ageing and crowded fabric offers limited scope for change or development, its population is not only transient but also hugely needy – and sometimes challenging – and resources are declining. Despite all this, managers and staff were working hard to make the prison a safer and more decent place. There was now a little more purposeful activity and some exciting, if nascent, ideas to work with local authorities to improve resettlement outcomes. It goes without saying that there is much more to do. Indeed the scale of the issues facing Pentonville means that it is also essential that the prison is supported by an effective London-wide strategy – but there is now at least a positive sense of direction.”

Source: The Guardian

The most overwhelming feeling even for someone who, like myself, knew perfectly well I’d be inside for no more than a couple of hours, is that, as you walk in, you lose control of what’s happening around you. The doors and gates rapidly being locked behind you, you realise that if – for any reason – you actually wanted to leave, you would not be able to do so without having someone able to let you out. Despite that, I actually came out feeling quite positive about the overall experience: seeing the prisoners so close-by, walking right next to them, reminded me that, even if many – if not most of them – have committed some serious crimes, they are humans. Some of them are there because they probably were unlucky enough to be born in the wrong place, to the wrong family or ended up mixing with the wrong crowds.

That is not to say that I feel sorry for them or that I would forgive the crimes they have committed and for the pain they’ve caused to others. Rather, it is to say that seeing a prison from inside has made even stronger, in my eyes, the case in favour of Article 6 (European Convention of Human Rights) rights. When you see with your own eyes what life in prison means, you understand why the criminal justice system must strive to secure convictions of the guilty and ensure acquittal of the innocent. Unfortunately, even in a perfectly well-oiled criminal justice machine, there are bound to be mistakes. This is why the importance of the right to a fair trial in full respect of the presumption of innocence, the equality of arms and the impartiality of the tribunal, must never be underestimated or taken for granted. The natural continuation of the right to a fair trial is the full compliance with human rights inside the prison, that is not to say to give unlimited privileges to prisoners but simply to remember that they are humans despite the inhumanity of some of their actions and – if we are to call ourselves a modern society – we must strive to respect their human dimension and, if possible, help them to rediscover it through rehabilitative and educational programmes.

Source: The Guardian

For anyone interested in more information on HMP Pentonville or the prison system in general, I have found this website very informative and useful: http://www.insidetime.org/info-regimes2.asp?nameofprison=HMP_PENTONVILLE.

The pictures in this post (except for the image of Jebb’s drawings of the prison plan) were all published by The Guardian online.