TERRORISM, CRIMINALITY AND CONTRABAND: A SUCCESSFUL CONFERENCE

A long line in Via di Campo Marzio and the New Parliamentary Groups Hall teeming with people are the two most evident indications of the interest aroused by the conference to launch the ICSA report on Terrorism, Criminality and Contraband: Jihadist businesses between the Middle East, Africa and Europe, which presents the results of the Fighting Terrorism on the Tobacco Road project, funded by PMI Impact and published by Rubbettino.

Research, said ICSA Foundation President, Lt General Leonardo Tricarico, was carried out «with a spirit of independence», because «we do not fly the flag for political, business or any other interest». The findings show that Jihadist terrorism always plays a role in contraband or illicit traffic, whether as facilitator or end-user. From drugs to oil, from tobacco to cultural heritage, all the way to immigration, the study covers the main dynamics and strategies of the al-Qaeda/ISIS binomial and its links with crime, whether petty or organized.   Undersecretary for Defence Raffaele Volpi spoke on behalf of the Italian government, further underscoring the perceived value of the study carried out by a team comprising both academics and practitioners from the law enforcement community.

Prefect Carlo De Stefano, who coordinated the project with ICSA Director Italo S. Trento and Elettra Santori, stressed the importance of the so-called “Al Capone approach” (in other words, mapping financial flows to identify terror-crime connections) but also the effort to develop predictive indicators capable of answering the crucial of what drives individuals to radicalise. One such indicator is the creeping age growth of Jihadists. The overall goal, added De Stefano, is to create security rather than spread alarm.

In its work ICSA was able to draw upon significant support, in terms of both analysis and statistical data, from the Dipartimento di Pubblica Sicurezza (Public Security Department of the Ministry of the Interior), the Carabinieri, the Polizia di Stato (National Police), the Guardia di Finanza (Treasury Guard), the Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga (Central Counter Narcotics Directorate), the Nucleo Investigativo Centrale of the Dipartimento dell’Amministrazione Penitenziaria (Central Investigation Team of the Penitentiary Administration Department) and the Unità di Informazione Finanziaria of the Banca d’Italia (Bank of Italy Financial Information Unit). Several of these organisations also spoke at the conference.

Carabinieri chief of staff, Major General Teo Luzi, noted that Italy has what today are the world’s most advanced procedures, in part through the crucial presence across the country. «There is no such thing as zero risk», said Luzi. «We have been in part good, in part lucky, but in order to detect signals it is necessary to be present on the ground.» BrigadierGiuseppe Arbore, head of the Operations Department of the Treasury Guard General Command, looked at illicit traffics. The amount of contraband cigarettes seized has grown from 120 to 280 tons in 2013-2018 and the unsustainably low fuel prices at so-called “white pumps” suggests the illegal origins of the product. Prefect Gennaro Vecchione, Director General of the Department of Informations for Security, added that the multidisciplinary ICSA approach is well-suited to the complexity of terrorism.

The second session delved deeper into the issues, with the specialist contributions of Elettra Santori, of Alberto Negri, who drew on his war correspondent experience to describe the complexities of today’s Middle East, and of Giancarlo Capaldo, who concluded with the observation that «today terrorism is no longer a form of war, but rather a modality through which criminality imposes itself and a tool of war, even between states