The Absentee Bidder
As an Italian living in the Netherlands, I have always been surprised by the Dutch resistance to recognising that its territory and infrastructures are teeming with organized crime groups, specifically those coming from the cradle of organised crime, Italy.
The leash has been so loose that ‘Ndrangheta — an Italian criminal organisation with mafia connotations—has managed to infiltrate one of the most famous trading systems in the world, the flower auctions at the Royal Flora Holland in Aalsmeer.
While deciding to use my practice to expose this phenomenon, I soon faced the limit of my medium. My attempts to get as close as possible to this subject set off a series of visual and written narratives that aim to expose the Dutch icon, the tulip — and its unquestionable ties to organised crime.
A person can become a ’Ndranghetista in two ways: by birth, therefore already belonging to a mafia family, or by “baptism”, that is through the affiliation ritual that links him or her to the organisation until death. I am simulating the initiation ritual. I recite the words and perform the actions of the rite.

Walking in the night around Royal Flora Holland several spots are in complete blackness, I can not see what is in front of me. Directing my camera towards these dark spots I set a 1-minute long exposure. Only later I can see if there is something there. I can not frame what I do not see. (4/10)

Hundreds of trucks arrive and leave Royal Flora Holland every day. Numerous articles explain how organised crime obtains an advantage from this supply chain. Any of the trucks I see could be as connected to organised crime as it could not be. I randomly start to chase a truck, and when I lose it and get lost, I go back to the Royal Flora Holland to start a new chase. (1/8)

I think about how to make ’Ndrangheta and tulips appear together. While Imagining a presence next to a tulip, I place one under a strong light. I move the first one by simulating a gunshot, the shock waves move the tulip. I manipulate the second one by placing a small magnet inside the tulip, and then, with bigger magnets, I manipulate the tulip as I wish. Tulips are moved without touching them.

It’s 7 am, and like many times, I enter Royal Flora Holland as a tourist. From the reception, an overhead walkway guides me to where the bids are made. Hundreds of workers transport flowers from one point to another on the ground floor. Their work day is almost finished. When arriving at the auction rooms, there is no one. The only present person is the auctioneer, who sits inside a small cabinet behind his computer. After the pandemic ‘physical’ auctions are not pursued anymore, today flower auctions are done online, where bidders’ identities are lost in the vastness of the internet.

Sunbeams highlight one side of a tulip. I start to take pictures and turn the tulip clockwise with every shot. I combine every picture into one. The result still doesn’t show criminal connotations, nor a tulip anymore.

Wearing latex gloves I go to buy tulips. Arrived home I placed sterilised gauze, tweezers, a drug detector test and a tulip on my desk. I place the detector substance on the gauze and pass the gauze over the stem and petals of the tulip. I wait for the result. This tulip has had no contact with any illegal substance.

Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not. If only it was as easy as when as a child you peel off one petal at a time to see if you are being loved back. Sitting in a park trying all the flowers you find until you force the answer you want to have. Today I feel like these children. I need a prophecy too, but not one of love.


The biggest flower auction and digital marketplace in the world takes place at the Royal Flora Holland, in Aalsmeer, The Netherlands. Within 32 auction clocks, 96.000 clock transactions per day produce a 4.7 billion annual turnover — 18,2 million daily.
Because of its advanced distribution capabilities and robust supply chain, International flower shipments from flower auctions are considered one of the five major logistics hubs in The Netherlands, providing — with other major hubs — matchless access to the European territory.
Taking advantage of globalisation, ‘Ndrangheta — an Italian criminal organisation with mafia connotations — assumed different bodies to infiltrate into the legal business more than any other organisation. In 2015 Italian police operation “Acero-Krupi” showed how the ’Ndrangheta has been infiltrating the Royal Flora Holland for more than 25 years, taking advantage of this presence to enforce tax fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and extortion.
Today, Italian organised crime still takes advantage of Royal Flora Holland infrastructures, facilities and auctions. According to recent official reports, organised crime is still abusing the international position of the dutch floriculture sector.

"The Italian mafia hasn’t left yet, they’re sitting here doing business."
Gido Old Kotte, mayor of Aalsmeer, 2021.

! In recent years, Royal Flora Holland has increasingly been in contact with organised crime law enforcement agencies to effectively counter this phenomenon !