Confiscated goods - The dark billions

Confiscated goods - The dark billions

Organisation: L'Espresso (Italy)

Publication Date: 04/11/2016


The villa in Cote d’Azur had been confiscated in 2006, but eight years later its owner, a known offender, was still renting it out on Airbnb. The story of this real estate asset is just the tip of the iceberg of a phenomenon that embraces the whole of Europe. In 2014 goods worth more than two billion euros were taken away from the hands of criminal groups in Italy, Germany, Spain, France, England and Wales. It is an amount that rises to four billion euros if we include all EU countries: each with its own legislations and languages, while mafias and criminal groups speak only the language of dirty business, which help them create an annual wealth estimated at 110 billion euros. In autumn 2015 a team of journalists launched an investigation called “Confiscated Goods”, the european chapter of “Confiscati Bene”, a project of investigative journalism and civic monitoring advocating transparency on confiscated assets in Italy, which is promoted by, an Italian indipendent NGO of hacker activists and journalists that works for spreading ahead transparency and OpenData due to disseminating digital culture and data skills with off-line and on-line activities. Ondata brings skills both from journalism and coding to scale up its iniziatives and mission. The goal is to incentivize the creation of an European database of confiscated assets, which will allow a clear and timely answer to the questions of how many, where and which kinds of assets are taken away from criminals in Europe. The data currently available Europe-wide does not allow to paint a complete picture on the matter of confiscated goods. Aside from some national information, there is a lack of stats detailing the extent to which member states are able to recover illicit assets and cash. It is hard to estimate the true size of the criminal wealth that ends up in the control of the State. Therefore, our investigation focussed on five main European countries, each with its own peculiarities when it comes to confiscation and freezing of assets. Overall, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England and Wales confiscated more than two billion euros worth of assets in the last year for which the data has been made available. The number derives from the analysis of stats produced by the Assets Recovery Offices (ARO) or by national Ministries of Interior and Justice. The total value of confiscations enforced across the whole of Europe amounts to four billion euros.
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