Australian politicians have been infiltrated by the Calabrian mafia, according to an investigation by Fairfax Media-ABC Four Corners.
It says politicians at both state and federal level are exposed to “potential corruption” with “loopholes” in the political donation system.
The year-long investigation quoted confidential police reports.
The Calabrian Mafia, known as ‘Ndrangheta, runs a drugs and extortion business worth billions of euros.
It is is one of the world’s most powerful criminal groups, extending its influence and networks from Italy across the world.
According to Australia’s national broadcaster ABC, the group operates in Australia using threats and violence in both legitimate businesses, such as fruit and vegetables, and illegitimate businesses, such as drugs.
The joint investigation by ABC’s Four Corners programme and Fairfax Media found a number of contacts between “known and suspected criminals” belonging to the group and senior politicians.
The report says a man with “deep mafia associations” met the then-Prime Minister, John Howard, and other top party officials at a fundraising event for the Liberal Party in the early 2000s. However, it says there was no suggestion that Mr Howard knew of the man’s alleged criminal links.
It also said that both Labor and Liberal politicians had been lobbied by mafia-linked donors on issues of interest to their legitimate and non-legitimate businesses.
According to the 2013 police report, ‘Ndrangheta had used a number of well-known party donors to put a “legitimate public face” on its activities.
One lobbying campaign, the investigation reported, was aimed at obtaining a visa for a mafia boss who was later jailed for drug trafficking and implicated in a murder plot.
Meanwhile, the investigation discovered that the son of “another alleged mafia boss” did a work experience placement at the Australian embassy in Rome, which was described in one police report as “a major lapse”.
The ‘Ndrangheta, which emerged in the mid-1970s, operates mostly across Europe and has links with the Colombian drug cartels.
Cocaine is thought to be its biggest source of revenue, along with extortion and money laundering.