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Gendering the European Parliament

Why Nigerian Cults are a New "Official" Mafia in Italy

Organised Crime
Southern Europe
Mario Portanova
Mario Portanova

In Italy, the cradle of at least three worldwide known mafia organizations (Cosa nostra, 'ndrangheta and camorra), law enforcement officers and public opinion are now concerned about the spread of Nigerian Cults, particularly Black Axe and Eiye, involved most of all in drug dealing and trafficking in human beings for sex exploitation. Over the last decade, several Nigerian Cults members have been sentenced according to 416-bis article of Italian Penal Code, specifically "designed", in 1982, to punish mafia organizations members more effectively (while members of non-mafia organised crime gangs are punished by the "simple" 416 article). The purpose of this paper is to explain why and how these Cults have been considered a mafia-style organization – and not “simple” OC groups -by Italian law, focusing on the specific elements that, according to magistrates and law enforcement officers, these criminal groups have in common with traditional Italian mafias (e.g. intimidation, subjugation, omerta, territorial control).
The analysis, which is explorative in nature, will be conducted on judiciary material (court orders, convictions, and sentences) related to the most relevant trials against Nigerian Cults that took place in the last decade, particularly in Torino, Brescia and Palermo.
Moving from this framework, in the final section of the paper the analysis on the criminalisation of Nigerian Cults as mafia organizations will be related to a larger current debate on effectiveness of 416 bis article in fighting the so called "new mafias" (e.g. the native criminal phenomenon known as "Mafia Capitale" in Rome or traditional mafia groups operating in Northern Italy, far away from their homelands).
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