Money laundering, goods fraud, robbery, theft, threats: the Berlin police initiated no fewer than 43 criminal cases within a year against a 22-year-old clan member. The suspect thus secured the inglorious top spot in the clan crime situation report for 2022, which was published by the Berlin interior administration.

According to this, investigators registered 872 crimes in the past year in connection with multiple organized crime, which emanates from large families – often of Arabic origin. That is 23 more cases than in 2021.

The list is long and diverse. They list fraud (125), traffic offenses (122) and brutality (120), followed by drug offenses (86), theft/embezzlement (65), threats with weapons (56), robbery (43) and money laundering (42) . Among the registered cases are three homicides. There are also 89 administrative offenses such as driving too fast or violations of the weapons law.

Berlin as a hotspot of clan crime

Berlin is considered a nationwide hotspot for clan crime. According to the situation report, which was first reported by “Welt am Sonntag”, RBB and “Tagesspiegel”, by no means all clan members are considered criminals. Rather, it is about those with “delinquent behavior” who place their own norms and values ‚Äč‚Äčabove the legal system in force in Germany. In the previous year, 303 suspects were identified for crimes in this group (2021: 295). According to the interior administration, a total of 582 people are attributed to the milieu of Berlin clan crime (as of December 31, 2022).

Almost half of them – 47.7 percent – are German citizens. About a quarter are listed in the statistics as Lebanese (14.95 percent) or German-Lebanese (8.9 percent). The citizenship is unclear for 18.7 percent. In addition, the Berlin investigators also assign Turkish (4.8 percent) or German-Turkish nationals (1.7 percent) or Syrians (2.1 percent) to clan crime.

In 2022, crimes committed by clan members accounted for around 0.2 percent of all crime in Berlin, and this also applies to the number of suspects. Nevertheless, since 2018 at the latest, the authorities have been taking more and more coordinated action against these groups. One trigger may have been the spectacular robbery of a 100-kilogram gold coin from the Bode Museum in 2017, in which the courts were convinced that members of an extended Arab family were involved.

In the milieu, imprisonment is often regarded as a “distinction”.

An important point of the action plan that was decided at the time is the confiscation of clan assets that are believed to have originated from criminal activities. Because that hits them harder than imprisonment, which is often even considered an “award” in the milieu, as investigators report. In this context, according to the situation report, there were 160 police checks in Berlin in 2022 – i.e. every second day on average. During these operations, some of which were carried out jointly with public order offices, districts, customs and tax authorities, 606 objects were checked and 36 of them were closed.

The evidence seized included more than 52,000 euros in alleged drug money, 11,203 untaxed cigarettes, around 209 kilograms of water pipe tobacco and 633 sales units of narcotics. There were also 34 cars, 82 slot machines and 47 weapons or dangerous objects.

Interior Senator Spranger announces consistent action

Against this background, Berlin’s Senator for the Interior, Iris Spranger, announced further consistent action against criminal clans. “It is important to break up and ultimately dissolve these isolated structures that reject our legal system and try to evade our legal system,” she said on Saturday. At the same time, the SPD politician, who currently chairs the conference of interior ministers, called for the laws to be tightened up. Because when it comes to skimming off assets, the state is still reaching its limits.

“Even if there was a simplification in the proof of asset confiscation, an actual reversal of the burden of proof, such as in the fight against the mafia in Italy, would strengthen our fight against the phenomenon of clan crime,” said Spranger. In other words, a suspect with no income or assets would have to prove for himself where he got the money to buy a million-dollar villa or a luxury car.

Positive reactions to Spranger’s suggestion

The Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to examine and advise on Spranger’s proposal, a ministry spokesman announced in the “Tagesspiegel”. This will happen against the background of its own strategy to fight organized crime. This already contains “several points to make real estate ownership more transparent and to be able to identify illegally acquired assets more effectively”.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) also reacted positively to Spranger’s move. “We have to get hold of the big money and therefore use all legal options,” he told the “Tagesspiegel”. “I also don’t rule out a reversal of the burden of proof if we don’t make any progress here.”

Meanwhile, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) defended her plans for easier deportation of criminal clan members, which are controversial even within her own party. “We have to fight organized crime consistently. Clan crime is part of it. The rule of law has to show its teeth here,” she told the “Rheinische Post”. This includes the faster expulsion of criminals without a German passport. “It’s about criminal activity, not about family relationships,” added Faeser. “The family name says nothing about whether someone is a criminal.”