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UN official praises legacy of Italian magistrates who fought against organized crime

Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.
Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.

UN official praises legacy of Italian magistrates who fought against organized crime

The United Nations top anti-crime official today praised the work of Italian magistrates Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, who were murdered 20 years ago but continue to exert influence in the way countries combat organized crime.

“The work of these two magistrates is inspirational and forms the bedrock of the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime,” said the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, marking the anniversary of their deaths. “Twenty years on, we continue to trace the proceeds of crime, to seize assets and to focus on the criminal networks, while building international cooperation. In this sense, their work lives on.”

Italian magistrate Paolo Borsellino, and five police officers, were killed on 19 July 1992 when a car bomb exploded in Palermo, Sicily. His death came 57 days after fellow magistrate, Giovanni Falcone, was murdered on 23 May. The massive bomb placed on a motorway near Capaci, Sicily, also killed Falcone’s wife and three police officers.

In 2000, the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime codified a number of the magistrates’ methods. Provisions on international judicial and legal cooperation, specialized investigative techniques, and the protection of witnesses are all indebted to their groundbreaking work, Mr. Fedotov said.

“These two magistrates have been enormously influential on the way the international community combats transnational organized crime. Although Italy was regrettably one of the first countries to face this threat, it was also one of the first to provide a roadmap on how to successfully deal with it,” the UNODC chief stated. “That roadmap was built on the courage and bravery of magistrates such as Falcone and Borsellino.”

According to UNODC, Mr. Falcone’s focus on the financial trail left by criminals and asset seizures are both key strategies in fighting organized crime today. The agency also recognized his efforts to establish working relationships at an international level to tackle crime, and his push for criminalizing participation in criminal networks, rather than concentrating on individual crimes.

“Thanks to these experiences, Italy is now a prime mover in this field. I hope it will continue to work with other countries to promote solutions and best practices to a challenge that every country and region now faces,” Mr. Fedotov said.

Earlier this week, UNODC launched a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the societal and financial costs incurred by transnational organized crime, noting that its $870 billion turnover is six times the amount of official development assistance, and is comparable to 1.5 per cent of the global domestic product, or seven per cent of the world’s exports of merchandise.