Mafia, Illicit Economy and the Italian Economy

Analysis of organised crime have never been an easy social phenomena. It’s effect on the psyche of the people and influence on political operation has defeated concise definition (Von Lampe 2003, Santino 2006, Ronczkowski 2007, Saviano, 2008). There exist as many definitions as there are organised crime researches and social discourse on the issue. Each state tends to address the local situation on as it is basis (Shelly, 2007). Sadly, organised crime has never been anything local, they are more successful in international operations.

Today, intercontinental crime group control over 90 percent of world economy in areas of smuggling, contrabands, government contract fixing rackets (Saviano 2006) Of all these groups, the mafia or Cosa Nostra has remained most popular (Dickie, 2004). Since 1896 when the trial of the first group of mafiosis took place in Sicily, the Mafia influence in the socio-political and economy of Italy has continued to expand. Aided by a culture that applauds Napoletan ethics and ruled by code of “Honour and Omertà”.

The Sicilian Islands are worst hit by the mafia dominance in global crime since time immemorials but globalisation have heralded the new dawn for global dominance since after the Second World War (Borsellino, 2011). Mafia dominance of this mediterranean island was left to grow unencumbered until recent years because its ways was deemed to reflect the Sicilian phenomenon, its defiance ethos.

The Sicilian way of defiance to authority and cultural independence stand them out from other parts of Italy (Santino, 2006). Mafia has come to become a tradition in Italy. It is not a reflection on other crime but an embodiment of a way of life by a few Italians desperate to earn a luxury living in an environment of economic depression. The history of the development of mafia has shown the resilience of a group employing violence, intimidation, assassination and any other illegal means to benefit their group. the Sicilian landscape was dotted by a largely agrarian community living in a not so agricultural friendly landscape.

The mountain areas of italy was never a great area for farmers. The oppressive succeeding rulers and the landowners have deferred to the spirit of continuous resistance by the locals. As a form of resistance movement, mafia rarely recognise the state monopoly of power and ran parallel system within the structure in every areas of its operation.

Employing the Finckenauer analytical defining variables, the mafia reflected a system without any political or social ideology, do have an organised leadership hierarchy, This system have survived over 200 years of operations and employ corrupt practises to intimidate competitors and penetrate legitimate business. Equally, the mafia enterprise restrict membership to a few trusted ” men of honour” and employ violence by any means necessary as tactics to achieve it’s goals.

Mafia have been used by many writer on organised crime to describe all organised criminal activities in Italy and this generalisation had stuck, giving the mafia a larger than life existence. In realities there are many type of criminal groups in Italy and some of them traced their origin further than the Cosa Nostra and have more influence on the Italian people. These organisation includes:

Camorra: Have their roots in Campania. The camorrista have always had a chequered history. Though popular and notorious in the late 20th century, their power waned when the fascists took over in Italy. They went underground finally when the mafia took control of all illegal activities in Italy after the allied invasion of Italy in the period after the second world war (The resilience of this organisation was revealed in the way it has survived years of oppression to come out top). From a noble agrarian uncouth group working under politicians in the early days to becoming mule, collaborating and loaning out it’s areas of operation and resources to the Cosa Nostra and other crime gangs to operate during the period of persecution by governments in the middle of last century.

The new camorra was reformed by Raffaele “the professor” Cutolo from prison – where he was serving a 23 years jail term for homicide sine 1963- (Jacquemet, Behan, pp.225.) brought back the new dawn for the camorra. The new organisation that was came out of this reorganisation is reputed to hold control of all the drug operations in all areas between naples and Campania. The fashion and illegal contrabands that take place in Campania and mostly in Secondilagio and the waste disposal racket in most of Italy (Saviano 2008, Behan 2009, Danielle 2010.)

This organisation also share the control of the italian harbours with the Ndraghenta from Calabria. By 1988, it was recorded that there were 145 different camorrist families with over 7000 members in Italy. The camorrists were the first Italian gangs to establish direct global operations. mixing legal businesses with illicit operations, growing from Italy to controlling more than 70 percent of global contraband market today (Saviano, 2008)

Ndrangheta: The Ndrangheta have a wonderful roots and appears closer to the every Sicilian families hence is seen as the most powerful of all Italian criminal organisation. Hence it is more fluid than any of the other Criminal organisations in the area. Employing almost all members of the society in it’s operations. Using the italian saying “if all are guilty, then none is guilty” -Ubertto Santini.

For limitation of resources, this work concentrate mainly on the anti mafia movement in Sicily and the Sicilian Mafia. Marisa in her book “Mafia Princess” outlaid the basic inside of an Ndrangheta family. This network run through the fabric of the sicilian families and everyone seem involve hence the non-interference attitude in mafia operations before the 1980’s in Sicily.

Political affiliation by this group also helps in their survival and control of most operations in Sicily and Italy. The need of the people for government patronage have been usurped and the mafia organisation now become the bridge having power and control over economic and social lives of the people.

The Sicilian Mafia: La Cosa Nostra –this our thing-. Popular, intercontinental and very brash in its operation. The Sicilian mafia was eventually unveiled -after two century of Italian denial of it’s existence- through the Tommaso Buchetto pentiti confession to Magistrate Falconne in 1982 as a powerful elitist structural system with over 181 different families and 6000 soldiers operating in Italy. Corleone is remarkable in recent history –thanks to romantic writers like Mario Puzo – as the city where Mafia began and the systematic extermination of men of honour by the Corleonesi led by Tito Rino in the eighties in their bid to wrestle power from Tommaso Buscetta “boss of two world”. This takeover war led to murder of over 1000 “men of honour”. The fall of the Bruschetta Empire marked a watershed in the legal fight against the mafia.

Tommaso after his arrest and attempted suicide was to become the first “pentiti” -Police witness-.

Reasons for the Success of Mafia in Sicily Mafia forces has affected and shaped the psyches of the Italian youth for decade. The mafia was seen as an intricate black side of the Italian lifestyle, leading to a blanket national denial of the existence of mafia as an organisation rather a style of Sicilian bravado.

Economy: Many have argued that the Italian economy breeds the Mafia institutions. Lack of employment opportunities for youth, increase influence of criminal in society, lack of human security, uncontrolled growth of gangs, poverty and high mortality rates in Italian city leave no other option for survival but crime for the youth (Saviano 2009)

CULTURE; The Sicilian culture recognizes violence, illegality and acute anti-government activities as “survival means”. Sicilians after many years of misrule have developed defiance to legal authority as a means to survival. The people were wary of state structure, perceive them foreign, illegal and oppressive to norm. Hence, they prefer to explore intermediaries in all dealings with the state and explore all means to undermine the power of the “foreign” government. The age-old loyalty to the clan has been exploited.

The culture of ‘Omerta” is use by the mafia to suppress information to authority. The “system” is there to take care of all complains and right all wrongs (Albanese 2001, Saviano 2009, Borsellino 2011) . Today, this organisation control all cocaine trade in Italy. (Saviano 2007, Kingston 2007).

Unfortunately, the system of governance is equally lax in area of employment and opportunity development for Sicilians. Lacking means of legal supports and protection from mafia oppressions, many Italian youths turned to crime and became “made men” as a means to survival and respect in the society. Political: Politicians have always had a need for a group to help with their dirty works. They have continued to find a ready ally in the mafia groups. From the feudal lords and Landowners in need of thugs to maintain unpopular rents from the peasants in the 19th century to the electoral fixers of 21st century.

There has always been a marriage between the state and the mafia. The mafia supports the politicians in electing and protecting its officials from the people and the state reciprocates in appointing mafia stooges into government jobs and gave juicy contracts to Mafioso.

Culture of Fear: The cultures of fear of mafia reprisals have been ingrained into many Sicilians youth from cradle. Many are so afraid that the name mafia remains a taboo to their mouth. The mafia has continued to maintain this fear and respect through the collection of pizzo in the areas they control. The power over the people makes it impossible for them to come together and resist the mafia. The isolation of people who had stood up to the mafia by their society showed the extent of this fear. Anti-mafia activists like Peppitto Impassato were killed because their society, even their families forsake them when they took up the fight against the mafia.

Globalization: The breaking down of geospatial economic environment has contributed in no small way to the expansion of organized crime activities not only in Italy. The need for wealth and value system has changed in most communities. Effect of globalization on criminal activities was explained by Passas (1999). He posited that globalization forces the hand of individuals faced with; increasing global consumerism in an environment where purchasing power is controlled by a few in frustration turning towards crime and criminal activities for survival (Passas 1999, Picarelli 2007).

The family system was completely broken down due to changing economy situations and urbanisation. The areas round Sicily continued to record high emigration due to economic reasons since the turn of the last century. The population growth of Southern Italy was less than 10 percent in over 100 years (Census Records).

Anti-Mafia Movement in Italy

State movement against organised crime.

The history of anti-mafia operations in Italy have come a long way. Since the trial of 1896, the Italian government have continued to grapple with the mafia phenomena without real success. The activities of joint investigation by US and Italian states was directed mostly at Mafia organisations with direct American connections. The turning point in this standoff came during the Corleonese wars of the 1980s. The unabashed killing of over a 1000 men of honour, led to a public outcry that necessitated investigations by Magistrates Falconne Giovanne and Paolo Borsellino in 1986.

The confession of Bruschetta to Magistrate Giovanni Falcone was the first glimpse of the law into the organizational structure of the Cosa Nostra and the first prove of the existence of a mafia as an organisation and enterprise as against the popular argument that it’s just an Italian chivalry, a path of honour and respect by Italian tradition. The confession of Bruschetta to Falcone and his colleague Magistrate Paolo Borsellino marked the pillar for the Maxi Trial where 342 Mafiosi were found guilty of several criminal charges from murder to organized crime and sentenced to 2,665 years of imprisonment in a specially built Bunker in central Palermo, Sicily on 16 December 1987 (Santino 2006).

Falcone had dared the mafia and the organisation known for its ruthlessness retaliated as predicted within five months of the confirmation of the sentence by the Italian Supreme Court the two magistrates were dead. Falconne in a bomb blast in Capacci on his way from the Palermo Airport and Borsellino also died from another bomb blast on his way to visit his mother (Eduardo, 2011).

The Sicilian recognizes violence, illegality and acute anti-government activities as “survival means”. Sicilians were wary of state structure, perceive it illegal and oppressive to his norm. Hence, they prefer to explore intermediaries in all dealings with the state and explore all means to undermine the power of the foreign government (Saviano 2008, Behan 2009) Unfortunately, the system of governance is equally lax in area of employment and opportunity development for Sicilian. Lacking means of legal supports and protection from mafia oppressions, many Italian youths turned to crime and became “made men” as a means to survival and respect in the society. The effect of organized crime on the Italian economy remained huge. Dominating all financial transactions within the economy.

The extent of this problem is revealed in the level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Italy over years and the economic growth in southern Italy (Sicily) where mafia activities is more prominent showed a receding economic activities, high unemployment, low investment, low income, high crime rate, drug addiction and high recourse to criminal activities leading to high youth mortalities. Major challenge to businesses in mafia-controlled areas in Italy, remains the demand for “Pizzo” –protection money- by mafia bosses with the intention to maintain absolute control of their area. As a means of control, pizzo though have been identified as a minor income to the criminal organisation. About 200 million Euros is estimated as Pizzo paid to mafia from businesses in Italy daily (Borsellino, 2011).

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