Italy: The Mafia and the Migrants
Al Jazeera (2018)
This documentary concerns Mafia ties to Italy’s privately run immigrant reception centers. In the last four years Italy has admitted 600,000 migrants, who have crossed the Mediterranean by boat from Turkey and North Africa. The European Union pays the Italian government to operate emergency reception centers to provide migrant accommodation, food, clothes, medical services, “processing” (ie assistance in applying for refugee status), language training, employment referral and other integration services.
The Italian government, which pays these centers $35 per day per migrant, makes little effort to monitor them. Many are unsafe and unsanitary and so overcrowded that residents are forced to sleep in kitchens and showers. Likewise many reception center managers have little or no management or social service experience. Even more ominous, many are openly contracting with Mafia-run businesses.
In the eyes of the Italian Mafia, “migrants are worth more than drugs.” Although it’s illegal for any company convicted of Mafia affiliations to receive government contracts, generous kickbacks ensure local officials (and clergy) look the other way. In one reception center, a mob-run catering company routinely charges for 500 more meals than it serves.
A state prosecutor investigating the catering company estimates the mob has already made more than $1 billion of the refugee industry.
Panama Papers – Shady World of Offshore Companies
Das Erste/NDR (2016)
The Panama Papers is a German documentary about the infamous Panamanian law firm Mosack Fonseca, exposed by the Panama Papers leak* in 2015. The law firm, which has offices in 48 countries, assists banks, corporations, heads of state, drug lords and Mafia dons in creating offshore corporations to escape taxes, pension obligations and criminal prosecution in their own countries. In all, Mossack Fonseca has created over 214,000 offshore companies.
The film makers have a particular interest in the German partner, Jurgen Mossack, who immigrated to Panama as a child.
Among the Mossack Fonseca clients highlighted are an Israeli diamond merchant who used his offshore company to bribe a Guinean dictator for free iron mining rights. He later sold them to Brazil for $500 million dollars. Also featured is former Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to step down and he and his wife were discovered to have offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca.
My favorite segment is the one where the filmmaker goes online to set up his own offshore company for 3,000 euros. Within a week, he receives an official Panamanian address for his company and the minutes of an extraordinary meeting called by the company’s board of trustees. He then flies to Panama to visit his company office – which turns out to be an unoccupied floor in a Panama City office building.
*In 2015 a Mosack Fonseca whistleblower leaked 11 million documents (mainly emails) to a small German newspaper – which immediately shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Trump: What’s the Deal?
Trump: What the Deal? is a 1991 documentary about Donald Trumps early life. It’s been suppressed for 24 years owing to his threats to sue the BBC
Even back in 1988, Trump was known as the “people’s billionaire.” According to the filmmakers, this was largely due to shrewd marketing by his press agent (all the rich had press agents during the 1980s – it was fashionable to be ostentatiously wealthy).
According to the documentary, Trump has an ugly history of classic sociopathy, which includes “truthful hyperbole” (his own term for bending the truth), collaborating with mobsters, known criminals and notorious Mafia attorney Roy Cohn to score questionable tax abatements from New York City officials, cheat contract workers out of payment, conceal asbestos contamination and illegally harass and evict tenants (even after the court ordered him not to).
The film debunks Trump’s claim of being a self-made billionaire. He inherited his wealth from his father. According to Forbes magazine he’s been in bankruptcy court five times (most recently in 2014). He’s notorious for using borrowed money (often in the form of junk bonds) to finance real estate developments and filing for bankruptcy protection when he can’t meet debt repayments.