Mafias on the move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories
Federico Varese
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 278 pages.

Federico Varese’s highly entertaining and vividly described book, Mafias on the Move, analyzes the variables that determine the success or failure of a mafia group’s transfer to a new location through several case studies.

Varese’s main argument contradicts conventional scholarship on this issue. While most authors contend that globalization has made it easier for international organized crime to migrate and transplant their activities to different locations, Varese argues that mafias seldom move, and when they do, it is rarely motivated by expansionism but forced by court orders, mafia wars, or prosecution in the country of origin. Varese also examines the conditions necessary for mafias to become stronger in a particular geographic area. He argues that mafias thrive in vacuums of power where states fail to provide necessary economic services because clients look to organized crime to fill the gap. This is particularly true during the emergence of new markets.

Varese illustrates his argument with compelling examples and matched comparisons drawn from all over the world and across different historical eras. He uses varied material from police wiretaps, contemporary and historical documentary sources, and personal interviews and observations that add life and veracity to the text. The effectiveness of his argument lies in his exhaustive research and well-contrasted examples.

Even though Varese’s argument deals well with conventional mafia structures, none of the examples provided deal with the modern use of technology and cybercriminal groups. Varese claims that the “mafia might use the Internet for conducting frauds or to invest their money in the stock exchange, but they do that as customers, not as protectors.” A further study of how these groups use technology would be both relevant and welcomed.