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International Seminar: The Italian Experience in Investigating, Confiscating and Administering Property Acquired from Criminal Activity
An international seminar entitled The Italian Experience in Investigating, Confiscating and the Reuse of Assets Acquired from Criminal Activities was held on October 28, 2011 in Sofia. It was jointly organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Commission for Establishing Properties Acquired from Criminal Activities and the Caserta Province Authority (Italy).

In his opening remarks Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of the CSD, stressed on the importance of the Italian experience in investigating, confiscating and the disposal of the assets acquired through criminal activities. He stressed the fact that Italy’s specialized legal texts, in addition to several administrative instruments, could be replicated in Bulgaria at a national and regional level. Dr. Shentov presented a publication by the Center, which compiles several judicial and administrative good practices, implemented in the framework of the anti-Mafia efforts of the Italian authorities. He singled out one of these, namely dissolving of municipal councils infiltrated by organized crime, as particularly relevant especially for the Black Sea coast region, where Bulgarian crime gangs are very active.

Dr. Marco Cerreto, Director of Relations with the EU department of the Italian province of Caserta, outlined the unique character of the SAPUCCA project as a joint endeavor uniting the efforts of several partners: the Caserta Province, the Catania Province, the Pistoia Province, the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Commission for establishing properties acquired from criminal activities, the European Network of NGOs fighting transnational organized crime (FLARE) and the Association of the European Regions TECLA. The international nature of organized crime calls for the synergy of the institutions, which are involved in countering the Mafia both on national and international levels. Dr. Cheretto stressed that the development of an adequate methodology for fighting organized crime and the exchange of good practices could pave the way for a more effective counterbalancing of this phenomenon on a global scale.

For his part Dr. Todor Kolarov, who heads the Bulgarian Commission for Establishing Properties Acquired from Criminal Activities, also praised the Italian experience: “ It is imperative to adopt a new law, which could serve as an effectively basis of the fight against organized crime in Bulgaria. One should not only proceed with confiscating criminal assets, but also reuse them more effectively, which still is not the case in this country.”

The fact that the SAPUCCA project is supported also by representatives from the civil society gives it a broader significance, according to Mr. Dimitar Georgiev, Deputy Minister of the Interior. He also expressed the view that the effective reuse of confiscated assets will represent a just compensation for the damages suffered by the Bulgarian citizens. Another positive impact of such an act will be the weakening of the economic clout of the criminal groups.

Dr. Emilia Tarantino, who manages the EU-funded SAPUCCA Project, presented to the Bulgarian participants all the project members from Caserta Province. One of the aims of the project is countering organized crime through developing relevant strategies for disposal of the confiscated assets and for identifying the social needs in the regions, where these assets have been confiscated. A series of training and experience sharing seminars will be held in Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia with a focus on the alternative social reuse of the confiscated property.

Dr. Barbara Vettori, professor at the Catholic University in Milan, spoke about the Italian anti-Mafia laws and especially about the implementation of stricter measures targeting those who are enriching themselves from criminal activities, while safeguarding basic human rights. Until the 1980s the laws defined the so-called “facultative confiscation”, where there is a direct link between criminal deeds and acquired assets. After 1992 however, stricter measures were introduced targeting members of organized crime groups, which endanger society. One of these measures is the “preventive confiscation” without being preceded by imposing of criminal penalty. Dr. Vettori also stressed the importance of measures targeting third persons in such a procedure: “The expropriation of assets inevitably leads to questions about a possible derogation of one of the basic human rights, namely the property rights. This underlines the necessity of supplementing the court with proofs of the discrepancy between the investigated person’s wealth and his legal income. The just process requirements are another aspect of safeguarding human rights in effectuating the assets confiscation procedure.”

Dr. Roberto Forte, Executive Director of the European Network of NGOs Fighting Transnational Organized Crime (FLARE), informed about the changes introduced in the EU legal framework aiming at harmonizing the respective laws in the Member-States. He reminded the participants that the public at large could use more effectively both the European Commission and the European Parliament in its efforts to impact the legislative process: “ In reality the organized crime limits the free development of the economy. In so doing it also denies the citizens’ rights to find their place in the work market. Any change in the European legal framework will necessitate the active support of civil society.”

Dr. Giacomo Barbato, Deputy-director of the National Agency for Administrating Assets Acquired by Criminal Activity informed the participants about the conditions, which facilitated the establishment of the agency and about its core activities. It started its work in 2010, when it became clear that the then existing repressive measures in countering organized crime in Italy were ineffective. The agency is put under the aegis of the Ministry of Interior, although it collaborates closely with representatives from the judicial system, the territorial local authorities and the Italian civil society. The Agency gathers information about the properties status, in addition to the management of the confiscated assets. Its Governing Board decides also the disposal of the confiscated properties. Its activities are centered around two pillars: a) cooperation with law enforcement, tax and court administrations in investigating certain property and in defining its eventual social reuse; b) the activities of the so-called information nuclei, which form a part of the National Operative Program for developing South Italy.

Dr. Luigi Gay, a prosecutor from the Italian Prosecution Office, informed the audience about the work of the 28 regional Antimafia directorates, which cover all the Italian territory. He stressed the necessity of a balanced application of the preventive confiscation without a criminal penalty in order to safeguard the interests of Italian society. Dr. Gay gave an extensive description of the modalities of the use of this instrument in countering organized crime in his country.

Ms. Vanya Nestorova, prosecutor and head of sector Countering Money Laundering at the Bulgarian Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation shared her knowledge about the activities and the concrete achievements of the institution in the fight with money laundering in Bulgaria.

Mr. Georgi Iliev, Chief of Cabinet of the Chairman of the Commission for establishing properties acquired from criminal activities, explained the organizational structure, the aims and the remit of this body. He stressed that the experience of the Commission accumulated over the last six years shows the necessity of introducing civic confiscation in order to increase its effectiveness. He recommends that the future law should target all the properties over 60 000 leva, which will permit the Commission to concentrate on investigating bigger organized criminal groups. Mr. Iliev also reminded the audience that the current law does not provide a legal way for the social reuse of confiscated assets.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 53.7 KB)
Presentation by Dr. Barbara Vettori (PowerPoint, 512 KB)
Policy Brief (Adobe PDF, 257 KB)
Reader: Antimafia – The Italian Experience in Fighting Organised Crime
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

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