Known in the media as Berlin’s ‘clans’, whose founders themselves fled war in Lebanon in the 1980s, they have long controlled much of the city’s illegal drugs trade, street prostitution and protection rackets.
Now police warn that the clans have sought out new members from among the more than one million asylum seekers who have arrived in Germany since mid-2015, half of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The clans ‘are trying to get others to do the dirty work’ such as selling drugs or committing small burglaries, said Benjamin Jendro of the GDP police union.
While East European and Asian organised crime and homegrown biker gangs are also active, the clans have been especially visible, given many members’ love of gangster bling and muscle cars.
The dozen or so Arabic and Kurdish-origin extended families, with their patriarchal structures and codes of honour, have also been mythologised by rap artists and portrayed in the TV series ‘4 Blocks’.
The extended families, aside from now running large chunks of Berlin’s illegal economy, have also committed some of the city’s most headline-grabbing criminal stunts.
In 2010, masked men wielding machetes and guns robbed a poker tournament in the Berlin Grand Hyatt, making off with about 240,000 euros ($270,000).
In 2014, robbers rampaged through Berlin’s KaDeWe luxury department store, smashed glass displays and stole watches and jewellery worth 800,000 euros.
And last year, clan-linked bandits stole a 100-kilogramme (220-pound) Canadian commemorative gold coin worth over 3.75 million euros from Berlin’s Bode museum, around the corner from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s apartment.
Berlin’s police is now under fire for having long neglected the problem – something researcher Ralph Ghadban blames partially on a ‘fear of stigmatising and discriminating against certain minorities’.
In recent months, authorities have started to hit back by stepping up raids of shisha bars and betting shops, many in Berlin’s Neukoelln district, and confiscating expensive cars for speeding.
In August, police and prosecutors seized 77 properties worth 10 million euros, alleged to have mostly been bought with proceeds from a major 2014 bank robbery. Some of the properties were officially owned by one convicted bank robber’s 19-year-old brother whose only declared income was state welfare.
Bagpuss25, Barnstaple, United Kingdom,
There is also a push to get clan members into positions within the police force and the public prosecutor’s office.
RectitudeDude1, Manchester, United Kingdom,
It’s strange how the same thing has been happening for years in the United Kingdom since Blair opened the floodgates, however it doesn’t seem to be newsworthy.
Ps2705, St Albans, United Kingdom,
All the best Merkel you and all euro leaders are fools. You never listen to the ordinary person who has to live with this crap. Civil unrest will come. First Brexit Let’s wait and see shall we what’s next. If I know the the German people they will not take this. If you can get them out GET THEM OUT.
GW: Know & love the KaDeWe – sorry that these crims went on a ”trash tour” through it. Something about the Lebs. Sydney had trouble with them a few years ago. They got too big for their boots & felt entitled to viciously assault an Australian female in a carpark then hose her down with a hose pipe. However there was some retaliation for this crime from the local lads & ”certain people” got beaten up as I recall.