Italian mafias: into Africa

The involvement of the Italian Mafia in the economy of Africa seems to be significantly high. Friday’s panel discussion, held at Centro Servizi G. Alessi, gathered several investigative journalists who have spent over 6 months on the money laundering and money dirtying in Africa.

Stefano Gurciullo, PhD candidate at University College London, introduced the just launched webpage linked to the investigation ( showing the use of visual elements, such as interactive maps. “We tried to find a way of combining investigative journalism and visual infographics,” he says, “With that we used a great amount of datascience which sometimes made it a challenge.”

The actual investigation was funded by the Gates Foundation and supported by the journalism centres Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI) and African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) in South Africa.

The team of journalists followed different steps to achieve their final goal of unraveling the story behind the Italian Mafia:

1.     Prereporting; getting the initial picture

2.     Field work: in the streets of South-Africa, Kenya and Namibia

3.     Post-processing: structuring information

4.     Inforgraphics: visualising stories and data

5.     Policy and numbers: what we have and what we don’t have

First of all, starting off with the pre-investigations, the diverse group of journalists, which consisted of more people than just todays panellists, made a systematic review of  the different regions the mafia in Italy operate in, after which they followed their routes to their African destinations.

Giulio Rubino, co-founder  of the IRPI, continued about the tracing of the economic and political power of the two main figures in their investigation: Vito Roberto Palazzolo and Messicate Vitale. Regarding Palazzolo, their research led to countless of different arrangements he had created over the years. “At first we thought we had to focus on the diamond mines he was linked to but it was basically more money laundering and uranium he traded in,” he says,” It’s inevitable Palazzolo’s African involvement has distorted the economical dvelopment of a country.”

Cecilia Anesi, also a co-founder of the IRPI, raised the notion of the never-ending research on the topic. “We reconstruct just a part of the story and there’s still alot more to discover.”

Lorenzo Bagnoli, a freelance journalist, spend most of his time in Kenya working on the case eventually discovering that the nations politicians make the first step towards the criminal entrepeneurs instead of the other way around. “These particular [African] countries have close links with intermediaries living there, while working for the mafia who’re also, at the same time, in direct contact with international well-established companies.”

According to Bagnoli, the main problem for the gaiing power of the mafia elite in especially Kenya is that of corruption. “The security system is totally porous. It’s a very fertile soil for any person with money.”

Anneloes Viskil