UK urged to act on crime's 'single market'

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN was yesterday urged to call an emergency meeting on organised crime in the European Community. After the murder of two anti-Mafia judges in Italy and reports of growing Mafia involvement in Germany, there are fears that criminal organisations have been as active in exploiting the European single market as their legitimate counterparts.

The French and Italian justice ministers met yesterday in Rome to co-ordinate their approaches to crime. Michel Vauzelle of France and Claudio Martelli of Italy suggested that Britain, which holds the EC Presidency, should convene a meeting of interior and justice ministers in September. The Home Office said last night that no request had been received. But Britain is due to host a meeting of EC justice ministers at the end of September, and this event could be expanded to consider organised crime.

It is not just Italy that has a problem with the Mafia. There has long been a problem in France, and German officials warned this week that there is growing evidence of organised crime moving into Germany. The Mafia is using the country as a base for investment and money- laundering, particularly in what was East Germany.

The reinvestment of organised crime's money in financial institutions, bonds and property has already caused concern in Europe. The creation of a single financial market next year has already produced legislation. The European Community agreed a directive on money-laundering earlier this year. But this does not cover many of the criminal aspects of laundering, being mainly concerned with the financial aspects. However, the Maastricht treaty on European union lays down the basis for more co-operation on interior and justice affairs.

Mr Martelli said the EC should set up 'judicial instruments to counter the laundering of Mafia money, speed up extradition processes and lead toward the eventual formation of a European judiciary.'

Mr Vauzelle said: 'It is important to show to Europeans, particularly after the Mafia assassinations in Sicily, that the creation of a single European market does not risk, as is received wisdom, the easy extension of criminality.'

The two ministers also raised the issues of corruption in political parties, which Mr Martelli said were 'as relevant in France and Spain as in Italy'. German officials have also warned of a swelling tide of corruption.