Organization, operations, and success of environmental organized crime in Italy and India: A comparative analysis

Date01 March 2017
AuthorAunshul Rege,Anita Lavorgna
DOI10.1177/1477370816649627
Publication Date01 March 2017
SubjectArticles
https://doi.org/10.1177/1477370816649627
European Journal of Criminology
2017, Vol. 14(2) 160 –182
© The Author(s) 2016
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DOI: 10.1177/1477370816649627
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Organization, operations,
and success of environmental
organized crime in Italy and
India: A comparative analysis
Aunshul Rege
Temple University, USA
Anita Lavorgna
University of Southampton, UK
Abstract
Despite the devastating short- and long-term consequences of resource-related environmental
crimes, rampant illegal soil and sand mining continues worldwide. In countries such as India and
Italy, organized crime groups have emerged as prominent illegal suppliers of soil and sand. The
proposed study focuses on an understudied research area at the intersection between organized
crime and environmental crimes, and offers a trans-comparative study of illegal soil and sand
mining conducted by Indian and Italian organized crime groups with two main objectives. First, a
comparative analysis of the organizational mechanisms, operational practices, threat management,
and supporting cultural, regulatory, and policing factors is conducted. Second, a discussion of how
these groups reflect mainstream models and theories of organized crime is offered.
Keywords
Comparative analysis, document analysis, environmental crime, mafia, organized crime, sand
mining
Introduction
Environmental crimes, specifically resource-related crimes, include those crimes that
illegally harvest the earth’s natural resources, such as flora, fauna, and minerals, thereby
negatively impacting the environment. One such natural resource is soil and especially
Corresponding author:
Anita Lavorgna, Lecturer in Criminology, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton,
Highfield Campus, 58 Salisbury Road, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK.
Email: A.Lavorgna@soton.ac.uk
649627EUC0010.1177/1477370816649627European Journal of CriminologyRege and Lavorgna
research-article2016
Article
Rege and Lavorgna 161
sand, which can be used for manufacturing concrete, brick, and glass, for water filtration,
in leisure and sports industries (golf courses and football pitches), in horticulture, in
everyday products such as dried food, detergents, cosmetics, hair spray, and toothpaste,
and in technology such as computers, mobile phones, and credit cards (Dupont, 2013;
NISA, 2011). An average house requires approximately 200 tons of sand, larger build-
ings require approximately 3,000 tons of sand, and just one kilometer of highway requires
30,000 tons of sand (Delestrac, 2013; Dupont, 2013). The global trade in sand yields
US$70 billion every year (Dupont, 2013).
Not surprisingly, soil and sand are hot commodities and, unfortunately, existing regu-
lated supplies are not enough to satisfy the enormous demand. To keep up with this
demand, soil and sand are mined illegally and extensively; currently approximately 70
countries are experiencing illegal mining (Coastal Care, 2014; Delestrac, 2013). The
problems resulting from excessive and illicit soil and sand mining include the destruction
of natural beaches and the ecosystems they protect, habitat loss for globally important
species, increased shoreline erosion rates, reduced protection from storms, tsunamis, and
wave events, and economic losses resulting from loss of coastal aesthetics and tourism
(Young and Griffith, 2009).
Despite these devastating short- and long-term environmental consequences, rampant
illegal soil and sand mining continues worldwide. In countries such as India and Italy,
organized crime groups have emerged as prominent illegal suppliers of environmental
resources that are harvested from within their respective borders. India’s ‘Sand Mafia’
are sophisticated organized crime groups that illegally excavate and sell sand for approx-
imately US$16 million per month (Rege, 2016). In Italy, the involvement of organized
crime groups in environmental crimes – so-called ‘ecomafias’1 – has attracted largely
scholarly attention (see, among others, Caneppele et al., 2013; Martone, 2014; Massari
and Monzini, 2004; Peluso, 2015; Pergolizzi, 2012; Ruggiero and South, 2010; Sergi and
Lavorgna, 2012; Sergi and South, forthcoming; Walters, 2013). Ecomafias are consid-
ered to be active also in the illegal soil mining that occurs to meet the demands of the
construction industry (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, 2013; Lavorgna, 2015;
Parliamentary Inquiry committee, 2000; Sciarrone, 2001). This activity is closely related
to illegal waste disposal in order to maximize profits, for a turnover of almost US$2 bil-
lion per month (Legambiente, 2014a); indeed, resulting holes (as well as pre-existing
caves) are illegally filled with waste as dumping sites. As Nunzio Perrella, the first pen-
tito (a former mafia member, now collaborator with justice) of ecomafia, said in 1988 ‘a
munnezza è oro’ (‘trash is gold’) (as reported in Marsala and Mura, 2009). Any type of
waste can be dumped in this way, from toxic industrial waste and tires to demolition
material and even nuclear waste (Massari and Monzini, 2004; Parliamentary Inquiry
Committee, 1997, 2012a).
Researchers have examined the intersections of organized crime and environmental
crimes worldwide, such as illegal fishing (Osterblom et al., 2011; Petrossian and Clarke,
2014; Sander et al., 2014), illegal wildlife hunting and poaching (Moreto and Lemieux,
2014; Pires, 2015; Rosen and Smith, 2010), illegal harvesting and logging (Bader et al.,
2013; Innes, 2010; Tacconi, 2012), and illegal hazardous waste dumping (Block and
Scarpitti, 1985; Celeste and Celebrezze, 1986; Massari and Monzini, 2004; Senior and
Mazza, 2004). However, the area of illicit soil and sand mining has been generally

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