Mafia: an italian product abroad

The mafia is present everywhere, even in the United States. American Cosa Nostra born in the early twentieth century and during the first decades begans to take shape and to get rich.

If you live in Italy, especially un North Italy, you hardly feel the presence of mafia in your daily life. A few isolated cases are related to economic scandals, rarely to fact of violence and crime. On the other hand if you live in South Italy, you can hardly live ignoring the presence of mafia in your daily life.

But why mafia in United States?

There are two main reasons for its birth:

  • The immigration of a large number of Italians, mostly from the southern regions (Sicily, Calabria and Campania). As it is well known, in a large immigration process there are honest people who are just looking for a job and a better life (the vast majority) and criminals who have other perspectives (the minority).
  • The forced emigration of Mafia bosses from Sicily due to the harsh repression of the Prefect Mori during the fascist period. The emigration for many mobsters, once identified, was the only way out to save himself from prison.

The reasons for the growth and development of this organization are varied:

  • Poor treatment by the U.S. authorities of the Italian immigrant population.
  • Bigot (or deliberately sly and commercially) moralistic policy in the '30s regarding alcohol (Prohibition) which facilitated the illegal activities (e.g. the smuggling of mafia).
  • Too late recognition of the problem mobster by the U.S. authorities, who intervened in a repressive actions on “small fish” or even on innocent people.


A characteristic of this phenomenon is the fact it developed like a family business, a reason of its strength and sometimes of is weakness: the loyalty is guaranteed by bonds of blood, but at the same time it make it easier to identify the people involved in a illegal activity: it's enough to investigate among relatives.

There are five families that make up this organisation which, although independent from the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, maintains close working relationships with it:

  • The GENOVESE family:

It is the most powerful mob family in America. The boss is Vincent “Chin” Gigante (literally “the Giant”), former right hand of Vito Genovese. The headquarters of the family are in Manhattan. The family is involved in extortion, procurement, waste collection, control of the ports of Newark, Elizabeth and Fulton, the fish market. The Genovese family is also involved in the game gambling, usury, drug trafficking (in New York, in the northern part of New Jersey and in Connecticut).

  • The GAMBINO family: It has about 200 affiliates. The boss John Gotti Johnny Boy , is serving a sentence to life imprisonment in a maximum security prison in Illinois. In its position as the head of the family it would be his older son. The crimes of Gambino family involved gambling, usury, drug trafficking. During the last years it has been evident the decline in influence of the family on the racket of the assumptions, the transport of municipal solid waste and food prices, as well as the union of truck drivers.
  • The BONANNO family: Joseph C. Massino would be the head. The Bonanno family is involved in gambling, usury, drug trafficking and video poker. The power of this mafia organisation, according to American official sources, is still growing.
  • The LUCCHESE family: It counts 50-60 affiliates. Vittorio Amuso , currently in prison, where he is serving a life sentence, is the boss. The Lucchese family is involved in such matters like usury, drug trafficking, extortion in the construction sector. During the last years it has been evident the decline in influence of the family on the field of industrial transport, control of airports, but also in gambling and wear in New Jersey.
  • The COLOMBO family: It has about 50-60 members. Carmine Persicob, sentenced to life imprisonment, is the boss. The Colombo family is involved in the big round of gambling and loan to wear in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. It is also active in drug trafficking.

The origin of Mafia and modern activities

What is the Mafia? The various types of underworld organization; when men come together to commit illegal actions it comes to organized crime or organized crime. Italy, unfortunately, in our time, is invaded by this phenomenon. However, despite the stage lights were constantly on the mafia, the phenomenon has continued to remain shrouded in an aura of ambiguity, a fog which made him elusive and mysterious. The Mafia has been described as a conspiracy, organized crime, industry of violence, behavioral model, anti-state and more. It can change depending on the context that surrounds it and survive in the most varied environments and conditions. This is an organization that has unique characteristics, quite different from the other phenomena of crime. The main purpose of these organizations is to earn large sums of money with little effort. For this reason many people are willing to kill with ease and do it even for a long time. Since then, the Mafia was confronted with all the events and with the different historical phases. And yet you can find a thread that runs through the unit more than 150 years of life in the Mafia. You can find them in the history of the Mafia itself.

The Mafia was born during the nineteenth century in the triangle that has the top in Palermo, along with Trapani and Agrigento. The term “mafia” appeared for the first time in 1862, when in Palermo was performed, with very wide success: the comedy “ The mafia of the Vicar, “written by Joseph Rizzotto. According to some historians, the Mafia was born with the unification of Italy. Othercor if the newborn Kingdom of Italy it was handed over a legacy from the Bourbons.

“Mafia” could then derive from “Mafioso”, perhaps because of the following superstition: who has the knowledge of the Neapolitan Camorra, and how criminal association has to be, can deduce from the “mafioso” the meaning of mafia itself: the kind of criminal association which is used a model of spirit and behaviour.

The Mafia developed into the economic system of western Sicily, based on the exploitation of large estates. This system was organized in a pyramid structure. The mob turned into a substitute body of legal order, intervening in the administration of justice and in managing the economy, coming to a serious legal business from which the affiliates and their families are earning a living.

The mafia spirit is based on a strict code of honor and “silence”, conflict and contention. Crimes were settled within the community, making use of mediation, but also intimidation and violence. The relationship with the State authorities were condemned and was especially punished, even with death, the transmission of information to the authorities.

In Sicily it developed the Mafia, the Camorra in Campania, in Calabria the ”'Ndrangheta”. Now, however, the entire nation suffers from this evil that was also exported abroad, especially in America, where it is called “Cosa Nostra”. Criminal organizations on our territory are four:

  • Cosa nostra;
  • Camorra;
  • 'Ndrangheta;
  • Sacra Corona Unita.

Cosa Nostra is the oldest and most dangerous organization. It originated in Sicily and spread to America after the Second World War. It has a pyramidal structure, headed by the so-called commission, and the base has about 5,000 men. They seem to be the responsible for the murders that have shaken the whole civilized world. The most famous cases are are destribed in the following subheadings.


Giovanni Falcone was born in Palermo May 18, 1939, by Arturo, director of the provincial chemical laboratory, and Luisa Bentivegna. He graduated in Law in the University of Palermo in 1961, with honors after the discussion of a thesis on “ Preliminary evidence in administrative law”. He was a student of Liceo Classico “Umberto”. He made a brief period at the Naval Academy of Livorno. After the competition in the judiciary, in 1964, he was praetor in Lentini. Later He became a deputy prosecutor in Trapani, where he remained for about twelve years. It was in this role tat he came gradually gaining the inclination and aptitude towards the field of criminal law. As Falcone himself said, “it was the objective evaluation of the facts that fascinated me,” in contrast with certain mechanisms “cumbersome and Byzantine” particularly accentuated in the field of civil law.

In Palermo, in the aftermath of the tragic attack on the judge Cesare Terranova (25 September 1979), he began to work at the Office of Investigation. In May Councillor instructor Rocco Chinnici gave him 80 investigations against Rosario Spatola, ie a process that also involved the U.S. crime, and that, on the other hand, had seen the prosecutor Gaetano Costa - then killed the following June - hampered by some substitutes, at the time of the signing of a long series of arrest warrants. In this very first experience in prosecuting crimes and mafia activities he felt the need to rebuild an overall picture, an organic vision of the connections, the absence of which in the past had resulted in the “flurry of acquittals.” On 29 July 1983, the adviser Chinnici was killed with his escort.

Anthony Caponnetto replaced him, who resumed the intention of the investigators to ensure the most favorable conditions in the investigation of crimes of the Mafia. It was constituted then, for the internal needs of those investigations, the so-called “anti-mafia pool”, on the model of the Teams active in the previous decade during the phenomenon of political terrorism.

It was part of the group, over the same Falcone and judges Di Lello and Guarnotta, also Paolo Borsellino, who had led the investigation on the murder, in 1980, of the Captain of Carabinieri (name of italian police force) Emanuele Basile. This can be considered a turning point, not only for the knowledge of certain facts about the Mafia, but especially about the structure of the Cosa Nostra organization. The interrogation the “penitent” Tommaso Buscetta began in Rome in July '84, in the presence of the deputy prosecutor Vincent Geraci and Gianni De Gennaro, Operative Core of Criminalpol. Officials of Police Joseph Montana and Ninni Cassara, close associates of Falcone and Borsellino were killed in the summer of '85.

It was then that the fear for the safety of the two judges grew esponentially. They were induced, for security reasons, to stay for some tie in the Asinara prison with their families.

This led - through these dramatic events - the conviction of Cosa Nostra's first maxi-trial, issued December 16, 1987 by the Court of Assizes of Palermo, President Alfonso Giordano, after twenty-two months in hearings and a half-day meeting in Room of Counsel.

The order of trial for 475 defendants had been filed by the Office of Investigation in early November of two years earlier. Subsequent events resented quite clearly in the negative sense of that success. In January, the Supreme Judicial Council preferred to appoint a head of the investigation, instead of Caponnetto who he wanted to resign, Councillor Anthony Mel. Then a new episode accentuated the tensions within the Office itself, an episode that had serious consequences on all the anti-mafia investigations.

Following the confessions of the “penitent” Catania Antonino Calderone, which led to a long series of arrests (commonly known as “blitz Madonie”) The investigating magistrate in Termini Imerese deemed himself incompetent, and transmitted the acts to the Office in Palermo . But Meli, in contrast to the judges of the pool, sent all the documentation back, knowing the offenses were committed in that jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court, at the turn of '88, ratified the opinion of the adviser instructor, denying the unitary structure of criminal organisations, stating that these, taken together, are equipped with “a broad decision-making sphere, operating in the territorial differently and have predominant subjective diversification ”.

This decision legally established the crushing of the investigation, that the experience of Palermo had intended to overcome. On 30 July Falcone requested to be allocated to another office. In the fall Meli gave him the charge of having favored in some way the knight of the work of Catania Carmelo Costanzo, and then disbanded the pool, as Borsellino had foreseen since the summer in a public speech, however, censured by the Board of Governors. The judges Conte and Di Lello resigned in protest. On this whole affair in June '92, during a debate in Palermo promoted by the magazine Micromega, Borsellino remembered: “The nefarious intervention of the Supreme Court, which began then and continued until today, did not prevent Falcone to continue to work hard. ” Despite such events, in fact, always over '88, Falcone had made a major operation in collaboration with Rudolph Giuliani, District Attorney of New York, called “lron Tower” which were affected due to the families of the Gambino and Inzerillo, involved in the trafficking of heroin. In the year '89 on June 20th, there was a failed dark assassination attempt of dell'Addaura in Mondello, about which Falcone said “We are facing refined minds that seek to guide certain actions of the Mafia. There are maybe the connection points between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and occult centers of power having instead other interests. I have the impression that this is the more reliable scenario, if you really want to understand the reasons which prompted someone to murder me.”

Immediately followed the episode, disconcerting, the so-called“ crow ”, ie of some anonymous letters directed to angrily accuse the same F.alcone and others. Investigations were also carried out by the High Commissioner for the fight against the Mafia, led by the prefect Sica. A week after the attack, the High Council decided to appoint Falcone deputy prosecutor at the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Palermo.

In January '90 he oversaw an investigation that led to the arrest of fourteen Colombian traffickers, a Sicilian investigation that had taken the boot from the confessions of the “penitent” Joe Cuffaro 'which had revealed that the freighter Big John, flying the Chilean flag, had downloaded in January '88, 596 kilos of cocaine off the coast of Castellammare del Golfo.

During the year it developed the “clash” with Leoluca Orlando, originated from prosecution for libel against the “penitent” Pellegriti, which addressed accusations against the MEP Salvo Lima. Controversy continued with the well-known topic of “cards in drawers”: Falcone thought it was the result of mere “political cynicism.”

In the elections of 1990 of the members of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Falcon was nominated for the lists “Movement for Justice” and “Proposal 88”, but with negative results. Meanwhile, reaching even more bitter disagreements with the then Attorney P. Giammanco - in terms of evaluation and on the ethical, in the conduct of investigations - he accepted the invitation of Vice-President of the Council of Ministers, C. Martelli, who had assumed the Acting Minister of Justice, to direct the Ministry of Criminal Affairs. He took the responsibility to coordinate a vast area, especially regarding proposals for legislative reforms to international collaboration. This opened a period - from March 1991 to his death - characterised by intense activity, aimed at making it more effective the judiciary system in the fight against crime.

Falcone was committed to complete what he believed to be a necessary condition of renewal, and that is the rationalisation of the relationship between the prosecutor and the judicial police, the coordination among the various proxies.

In this latter respect, dropped the initial hypothesis - to entrust the delicate task to the attorney general - the establishment of district attorney belonging to the prosecutors seemed the best solution. But it also posed an instance regarding the coordination on a national level.

Established in November of '91 , the National Anti-Mafia Directorate, the features of this judge, therefore, also paused during his hearing at the Palace of the Marshals of 22 March '92. “I think - he clarified in such circumstances, according to a report published by the weekly meeting of the” L'Espresso “(7 June '92) - that the national anti-Mafia prosecutor has the main task of putting into effect the coordination of investigations, to ensure the functionality of the judicial police and to ensure the completeness and timeliness of investigations. I believe that this should be a body of support and support for the investigative activity that is carried out exclusively by the Anti-Mafia prosecutors. ” His application to these tasks, however, was hampered in the Council of the Judiciary, whose plenum had not yet taken a final decision, when came the Capaci massacre of 23 May.

Meanwhile - it should be remembered - a judgment of the First Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Cassation on 30 January, chaired by Arnaldo Valente, had recognized the vertical structure of Cosa Nostra, and therefore the responsibility of the members of the “cupola” (literally “dome”) for those crimes committed by its members, that require a decision at the summit; it also reaffirmed the validity and importance of complicity. Along with Falcone, Capaci, it were killed his wife Francesca Morvilio, magistrate, and the bodyguards Rocco Di Cillo, Vito Schifani and Antonio Montinaro. On June 4, the Senate of the United States with a resolution (the n. 308) strengthen the commitment of the Italian-American working group, of which Falcone he was a member.


As a magistrate Paolo Borsellino was born in Palermo in 1964. He returned in his city for the first time in 1975, after a long tour that sees him part of the Court of Enna in 1965, the District Court of Mazara del Vallo in 1967, the District Court of Monreale in 1970.

He left Palermo on August 1986 in order to cover the functions of Prosecutor of the Republic of Marsala. However, He returned in Palermo a second time on March 6, 1992 to assume the position of Deputy Prosecutor of the District of Palermo, where it will continue its commitment as civil magistrate, dedicated to the fight against organized crime.

In the course of his career, certainly prestigious, he collected everywhere human appreciation of those who knew his personality: formal superior magistrates, colleagues, attorneys, investigators, officers.

The magistrate are full chronicles: in his first bout of Palermo, when he was investigating judge, became interested in the delicate investigation for the death of Boris Giuliano, for the killing of Ninni Cassara, his personal friend, the captain Basile, the Prefect Della Chiesa. He was part of the Anti-Mafia Pool and instructed important cases against the organised crime: the first maxi trial with more than 727 defendants against Michele Greco, and the other with more than 706 defendants against John Abbate, for a total of 500,000 pages of the proceedings. He ordered the trial for numerous and serious crimes committed by those defendants, with a judgment-order for more than 8000 pages.

In the period Marsala, strong of his investigative experience and knowledge acquired previously in the area, he dedicated, without ever neglecting even the slightest every aspect of his work, his attention to the endings of the great local mafia. He instructed together with his collaborators proceedings arising from revelations of repentant ones - some of which are already in the phase of the trial - which relate to offenses of conspiracy of the Mafia, trafficking in illegal stuff and trafficking in drugs, kidnappings, killings, as well as the cases against local and national politicians. He effected the execution of international rogatory letters in order to establish links and connections with the American mafia, whose assessment required depth knowledge of international law, administrative, corporate, banking, over the course of criminal law and criminal procedure.

The reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure did not find him unprepared, and indeed its Office (still now home to Prosecutor at the Court and the Public Prosecutor at the District Court) was one of the few who managed to overcome the impact of duplication of work that arose, eliminating well over fifty thousands cases, both old and new ones.

The recent reform of the judiciary and the establishment of Superprocure call the best magistrates where the need is greater in order to stick to the state's commitment: the fight against the organised crime: the spirit of service is combined with the moral commitment.

The main families

The Camorra has its head office in Campania, and has a widespreaded structure, in which groups join and break down easily; it has more than one hundred organizations with about 6,700 men. The Camorra has a technical specification for control of the territory, having no unified leadership; it develops its own control by intervening in the economy of families and poorer people. The 'Ndrangheta is based mainly in Calabria, counting 144 organizations with 5,600 affiliates. It has a predominantly horizontal. It exist relationships between different groups of 'Ndrangheta, but there is not a regional summit and there are no provincial leaders. The Sacra Corona Unita, with headquartered in Puglia, began to manifest itself in 1980 and is therefore the most recent organization, which has 7 organizations with about 536 members, mostly found in the province of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto. It's a criminal organization like the others, but in geographical areas where it is present its activity shows greater determination and ruthlessness.

The fight against the Mafia

Often it appears to us that solidarity for those who fight in the front line the mafia is something obvious, but sometimes it is just this that fails, procuring the death of brave judges, police or politicians. So it is crucial that the citizens give strong support to those who fights the mafia and it is also important that politicians or anyone having responsibilities must be controlled and do not tend to remove that support. The state is opposing against the Mafia making laws that allows seizure of assets in a more functional way, so the mafia can be affected in their weak spot in the heart of their interests: estates and money.

Some scholars have designed some simple tools to be used. For example the government can encourage the extension of means of payment names (checks, credit cards, money orders etc..), which always leave a mark. One thing that hinders the anti-mafia operation is: the conspiracy of silence '. In her native meaning it is not entirely a perversion of the moral sense, as it might appear, but it is a consequence of the principle of personal revenge, which is in turn a result of the lack of security that justice has gained in past centuries against the Sicilian people.

Another important element is the international collaboration to make sure that they can be limited to the so-called “tax havens” that is, those nations that allow dirty money to pass through secret accounts in banks. These are used by the Mafia to lose track of their money. One of the positive things is that the international conference against organized crime has been held in Napoli. This idea started from Falcone and it is with his comment that we want to end this relationship “you die because you are alone or because you entered a game too bif for you.” Often people die because they do not have the right alliances, because you are lacking support. In Sicily the Mafia hits the servants of the State that the State has failed to protect. “

At the Mafia is made up of people. The Government has failed to protect his children. The Mafia has failed to be a valid alternative to the Government. People in general are looking for support and protection. It seems that none of them have the ability to guarantee it to the population, making them disillusioned. There is nothing worse in life then the loss of hope.


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