- This article refers to a systematic corruption of a government by major organized crime syndicates. For the greater connotation that literally means "rule by thieves", see Kleptocracy.
|Corruption by country|
In politics, a mafia state is a state system where the government is tied with organized crime to the degree when government officials, the police, and/or military became a part of the criminal enterprise. According to US diplomats, the phrase "mafia state" was coined by Alexander Litvinenko.
Particular applications of the concept
In a critical review of Moisés Naím's essay in Foreign Affairs, Peter Andreas pointed to the long existence of Italian mafia and Japanese Yakuza, writing that there were close relationships between those illicit organisations and respective governments. According to Andreas, these examples speak against incidences of mafia states as a historically new threat.
In Italy, there are three main mafia organisations that originated in the 19th century: the Cosa Nostra originating from the region of Sicily, the Camorra originating from the region of Campania, and the 'Ndrangheta originating from the region of Calabria.
Former Prime Minister of Italy, Giulio Andreotti, had legal action against him, with a trial for mafia association on 27 March 1993 in the city of Palermo. The prosecution accused the former prime minister of "[making] available to the mafia association named Cosa Nostra for the defense of its interests and attainment of its criminal goals, the influence and power coming from his position as the leader of a political faction". Prosecutors said in return for electoral support of Salvo Lima and assassination of Andreotti's enemies, he had agreed to protect the Mafia, which had expected him to fix the Maxi Trial. Andreotti's defense was predicated on character attacks against the prosecution's key witnesses who were themselves involved with the mafia. Andreotti was eventually acquitted on 23 October 1999. However, together with the greater series of corruption cases of Mani pulite, Andreotti's trials marked the purging and renewal of Italy's political system.
The Camorra Casalesi clan rose in the 1980s, gaining control of large areas of the local economy "partly by manipulating politicians and intimidating judges". The clan was heavily involved in the Naples waste management crisis that dumped toxic waste around Campania in the 1990s and 2000s; the boss of the clan, Gaetano Vassallo, admitted to systematically working for 20 years to bribe local politicians and officials to gain their acquiescence to dumping toxic waste.
Countries described as Mafia states
Republics and territories of the former Yugoslavia
Kosovo, a partially recognised independent state formerly part of Serbia, was called a "mafia state" by Italian MEP Pino Arlacchi in 2011, and also by Moisés Naím in his 2012 essay "Mafia States" in the Foreign Affairs. Naím pointed out that Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi is allegedly connected to the heroin trade. Many other crime allegations have been made, and investigated by several countries, against Thaçi.
Transnistria, an unrecognised break-away state from Moldova, has long been described by journalists, researchers, politicians and diplomats as a quasistate whose economy is dependent on contraband and gunrunning.
For instance, in 2002, Moldova's president, Vladimir Voronin, called Transnistria a "residence of international mafia", "smuggling stronghold" and "outpost of Islamic combatants". The allegations were followed by attempts of customs blockade. Reacting to the allegations, Russian state-run RTR aired an investigative program revealing that Transnistrian firms were conducting industrial-level manufacturing of small arms purposely for subsequent illegal trafficking via the Ukrainian port of Odessa. According to the program, the trade was controlled by and benefited from Transnistria's founder and then-ruler Igor Smirnov.
However, more recent investigations and monitoring missions did not prove continuity in arms trafficking concerns. According to regular reports of the European Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), there have been no signs of significant weapons smuggling from Transnistria. During the press-conference on 30 November 2006 head of EUBAM Ferenc Banfi officially stated that organised smuggling of weapons in Transnistria did not exist. In 2013, Ukrainian Foreign Minister and acting chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Leonid Kozhara gave an interview to El País newspaper, commenting on situation in Transnistria and results of work of the EUBAM mission. According to Kozhara, there have been no cases of arms traffic found.
Some experts from Russia and Transnistria state that allegations of Transnistria being a "mafia state", "black hole of Europe", "heaven for arms trafficking", etc. are a carefully planned defamation campaign paid by the Moldovan government and aimed at producing negative image of Transnistria. Officials from the European Union and the OSCE, say they have no evidence that the Tiraspol regime has ever trafficked arms or nuclear material. Much of the alarm is attributed to efforts by the Moldovan government to increase pressure on Transdniester.
The term has been used by Alexander Litvinenko and media to describe the political system in Russia under Vladimir Putin's rule. This characterization came to prominence following the United States diplomatic cables leak, which revealed that US diplomats viewed Russia as "a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a 'virtual mafia state.'" In his book titled Mafia State, journalist and author Luke Harding argues that Putin has "created a state peopled by ex-KGB and FSB officers, like himself, [who are] bent on making money above all." In the estimation of American diplomats, "the government [of Russia] effectively [is] the mafia."
According to the New Statesman, "the term had entered the lexicon of expert discussion" several years before the cables leak, "and not as a frivolous metaphor. Those most familiar with the country had come to see it as a kleptocracy with Vladimir Putin in the role of capo di tutti capi, dividing the spoils and preventing turf wars between rival clans of an essentially criminal elite." In 2008, Stephen Blank noted that Russia under Putin is "a state that European officials privately call a Mafia state" that "naturally gravitates toward Mafia-like behavior."
Nikolay Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said "it's pretty hard to damage the Russian image in the world because it's already not very good".
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The scholar of Law and Economics Edgardo Buscaglia describes the political system of Mexico as a "Mafiacracy". Buscaglia characterises the condition between the state, the economy and organized crime in Mexico as a mutual interweaving,  Mexico has also been labeled as a Narco-state (a country where the political power and the economy it's closely related and its relies highly on protecting the drug trafficking mafias).
Moisés Naím, the author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy, wrote in an article for the American magazine Foreign Policy: "In mafia states such as Bulgaria, Guinea-Bissau, Montenegro, Myanmar (also called Burma), Ukraine, and Venezuela, the national interest and the interests of organised crime are now inextricably intertwined."
During the 1990s, Aruba, an overseas territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was alleged to be a mafia state under then Prime Minister Henny Eman. The Sicilian Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan was said to "own" over 60% of the island through investments in hotels, casinos, and donations towards Eman's election-campaign. These claims later turned out to be exaggerated, however.
In 2010, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had labelled Switzerland as a mafia state, stating that "Switzerland is behaving like a criminal organisation and it is involved in money laundering, assassinations and terrorism."
Jonathan Benton, the former head of a United Kingdom anti-corruption agency, described Malta as a “mafia state” where money laundering transactions of hundreds of millions of euros are made every year without any problem. He made this statement while speaking on BBC radio following the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
- Mafia Raj
- Counterintelligence state
- Police state
- Failed state
- Terrorist state
- North Korea's illicit activities
- Mafia States: Organized Crime Takes Office by Moisés Naím, Foreign Affairs.
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- Putin's Russia 'now a mafia state', BBC
- Wikileaks: Russia branded 'mafia state' in cables, BBC
- British MPs paint scary picture of Putin's Russia, EUObserver
- WikiLeaks cables condemn Russia as 'mafia state', The Guardian
- Expelled Moscow correspondent claims Russia is mafia state, abc.net.au
- Below Surface, U.S. Has Dim View of Putin and Russia, The New York Times
- Russia - Mafia State: It's important to tell the truth about Putin's Russia, CNN
- Stephen Holmes, Fragments of a Defunct State, London Review of Books
- Review: Mafia State, New Statesman
- Stephen Blank (2008): What Comes After the Russo–Georgian War? What's at Stake in the CIS, American Foreign Policy Interests, 30:6, 379–391
- Russia’s "mafia state" image no disaster, euronews
- Die Zeit-Online: Interview with Edgardo Buscaglia (German-speaking Article)
- "Ven en EU a México como 'narcoestado'".
- "Mafia States". Foreign Policy. 2012.
- The Rothschilds of the Mafia on Aruba, Transnational Organized Crime, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1997
- (in Dutch) Arubaanse minister vertelt halve waarheid drugsmaffia, by Tom Blickman, Het Parool, October 15, 1997
- "Gaddafi labels Switzerland a 'mafia state'". The Sydney Morning Herald. May 4, 2010.
- Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Ex-British anti-corruption boss dubs Malta 'mafia state'". Times of Malta. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
- Luke Harding (2012). Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia. Guardian Books. ISBN 978-0-85265-249-7.
- Naím, M. (2012). "Mafia states: Organized crime takes office." Foreign Affairs, 91, 100.
- Wang, P. & Blancke, S. (2014). "Mafia State: The Evolving Threat of North Korean Narcotics Trafficking." The RUSI Journal. 159 (5). 52–59.