The Structure and the Content of Criminal Connections: The Russian Mafia in Italy

by Federico Varese


A widespread belief among scholars of organized crime is that contemporary organized crime groups intentionally take advantage of globalization by opening outposts in faraway territories. In turn, such groups supposedly have developed a non-traditional, flat internal structure lacking ‘centres of gravity’. This article puts such a belief to test. The data come from an extensive police investigation into an attempt by a Russian mafia group to open a branch in Rome in the mid-1990s, and a set of phone intercepts over 9 months. Using content analysis and social network analysis, the article reconstructs the organizational structure of the Italian cell. We conclude that the group was forced to move abroad and the group is hierarchically structured and polycentric. The article argues that segments of criminal markets might be ‘flat’, but individual groups contain structure of authority. This study discusses the extent to which phone intercepts can be considered valid and reliable data sources, and contributes to debates on globalization, and the role of women in organized crime. It also calls for a greater integration between Content and Network Analysis.

European Sociological Review

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