Mafias on the MoveHow Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

Mafias on the MoveHow Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

Federico Varese

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780691128559

Publisher: Princeton University Press


Organized crime is spreading like a global virus as mobs take advantage of open borders to establish local franchises at will. That at least is the fear, inspired by stories of Russian mobsters in New York, Chinese triads in London, and Italian mafias throughout the West. As this book explains, the truth is more complicated. The author has spent years researching mafia groups in Italy, Russia, the United States, and China, and argues that mafiosi often find themselves abroad against their will, rather than through a strategic plan to colonize new territories. Once there, they do not always succeed in establishing themselves. The book spells out the conditions that lead to their long-term success, namely sudden market expansion that is neither exploited by local rivals nor blocked by authorities. Ultimately the inability of the state to govern economic transformations gives mafias their opportunity. In a series of matched comparisons, the book charts the attempts of the Calabrese 'Ndrangheta to move to the north of Italy, and shows how the Sicilian mafia expanded to early twentieth-century New York, but failed around the same time to find a niche in Argentina. The book explains why the Russian mafia failed to penetrate Rome but succeeded in Hungary. A pioneering chapter on China examines the challenges that triads from Taiwan and Hong Kong find in branching out to the mainland. This book is both a compelling read and a sober assessment of the risks posed by globalization and immigration for the spread of mafias.