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INTERVIEW. “With the mafias, Corsica lives tense hours”

“There are two important mafia zones in Corsica : Bastia and Ajaccio. The latter attracts a lot of envy because of tourism. There is also the extreme south, the golden triangle Bonifacio-Pianottoli-Porto-Vecchio », explains journalist Jean-Michel Verne. Interview.

How was this book born? Resist in Corsica ?

It is the extension of a previous work written in 2019, Judges in Corsica. Nine magistrates, some of very high level, recount their island experiences, what they suffered there, all the snakes to swallow… These testimonies showed very strong dysfunctions in the state apparatus. This is something that we find in this new book.


Jean-Michel Verne, journalist, author of the book Resisting in Corsica, facing the mafias. © Pascal PARROT

Complicated to write?

In Judges in Corsica, everything was sensitive. With Resist in Corsica, we are in another register. These are citizens, elected officials, former elected officials who speak … I had defections at the last moment, in particular a worker who was threatened with death.

So the omerta is still very active …

Of course. It is both silence and looking away. I’m not looking, I don’t want to see anything.

What have you discovered through these testimonies?

Residents have decided to rebel against a “mafioization” of life on the island, which has resulted in settling of scores, even assassinations of notables. Today, this mafia system is infiltrating economic life, real estate, transport …

Seen from the outside, it feels like the mafia and Corsica have been together for a long time…

It is, yes. At the end of the XIXe century, Corsicans migrate en masse to the continent, due to the pauperization of the Isle of Beauty. The inhabitants need to find work. They will settle in the Panier district in Marseille, the cradle of Marseille thugs. This is where it all starts. At this time, we see the construction of an organized Corsican milieu in Marseille. We’re starting to set up the first drug labs. When the French Connection arrived after the war, the Corsicans were at the forefront …

You speak of mafias in the plural. What are they ?

There are very well established criminal groups, such as the heirs of the sea breeze or as the so-called team of Small Ajaccio bar, with considerable income from racketeering and drug trafficking. Those are a minima 50 million euros between Corsica, Switzerland and Dubai. We can also mention the Shepherd Shepherds, an extremely powerful team that “invests” in construction, agriculture…

We also talk a lot about Antony Perrino. Who is it ?

A promoter with a meteoric rise in the south of the island… He is imprisoned for having served as a cash carrier for the Petit bar team. Antony Perrino is also one of the founding members of the Consortium, a group of entrepreneurs formed around the takeover of SNCM (Société nationale maritime Corse Méditerranée) in 2015 and which, little by little, took control of all the economic levers of the island: transport, mass distribution, waste… I am not saying that the Consortium is mafia, I am saying that a lot of questions arise around it. With a few attacks committed over several months …

Are these mafias present throughout Corsica?

There are two major mafia zones: Bastia and Ajaccio. The latter attracts a lot of envy because of tourism. There is also the extreme south, the golden triangle Bonifacio-Pianottoli-Porto-Vecchio. Land prices are extravagant, fortunes from all over the world are settling there. It is a place that generates incredible tourist revenue. The mafias are therefore putting their nose to it.

How many people are there in these Corsican mafias?

Two hundred, maybe. There are active members and those revolving around them, those recruited from outside for a settling of scores, for example … But it is not the number that counts, it is the establishment, the relations with the politician … There are many questions about the blindness of certain administrations. On European agricultural aid, for example, with embezzlement. Some manage to collect 1.2 million euros per year.

Faced with this, what is the nationalist power doing?

He doesn’t have a hand. The real masters of Corsica are those who hold the economy.

What about the state?

He has put the pressure on the mafias in Corsica and finally seems to understand the stakes of the problem. The recent operations carried out against the Petit bar team bear witness to this.

How is Corsica today?

She lives extremely tense hours. If we do nothing, it will inexorably sink into mafia tectonics.

The only solution is citizen movements?

These movements are in an embryonic state. It is impossible to compare them to the Sicilian citizens’ movements. Corsica is only in the infancy of the anti-mafia. Frankly, to fix the situation and clear the field, I only see the state apparatus today. But it is certain that these anti-mafia movements play a role of whistleblowers.

Are you a pessimist?

I am not very optimistic. I hope I am wrong! There are important economic issues, political instability, uncertainties about the future of the island. Will she be more autonomous? Extended autonomy has many positive points, but also generates dangers. Cosa Nostra favored the autonomy of Sicily and we saw the arrival of a series of companies infiltrated by the Mafia. This is sort of what threatens Corsica.

Can this mafia spread?

The Corsican mafia is very established Nice at Toulouse. But Corsican mafiosi are everywhere, as long as there is money to be made …

The witnesses, speaking with their faces uncovered in your book, were they worried?

One of them received a visit, because he had made invisible things a little too visible… There is a small unhealthy climate. My books are really disturbing in Corsica.

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