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Mafia now “Italy’s No.1 bank” as crisis bites: report

Organized crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country’s biggest “bank” and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a report.

Extortionate lending by criminal groups had become a “national emergency,” said the report by anti-crime group SOS Impresa.

Organized crime now generated annual turnover of about 140 billion euros ($178.89 billion) and profits of more than 100 billion euros, it added.

“With 65 billion euros in liquidity, the Mafia is Italy’s number one bank,” said a statement from the group, which was set up in Palermo a decade ago to oppose extortion rackets against small business.

Organized crime groups like the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Naples Camorra or the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta have long had a stranglehold on the Italian economy, generating profits equivalent to about 7 percent of national output.

Extortionate lending had become an increasingly sophisticated and lucrative source of income, alongside drug trafficking, arms smuggling, prostitution, gambling and racketeering, the report said.

“The classic neighborhood or street loan shark is on the way out, giving way to organized loan-sharking that is well connected with professional circles and operates with the connivance of high-level professionals,” the report said.

It estimated about 200,000 businesses were tied to extortionate lenders and tens of thousands of jobs had been lost as a result.

EXTORTION WITH A CLEAN FACE

Old style gangsters handing out cash in bars and pool halls had been replaced by apparently respectable bankers, lawyers or notaries, the report said.

“This is extortion with a clean face,” it added. “Through their professions, they know the mechanisms of the legal credit market and they often know the financial position of their victims perfectly.”

Small businesses, who have struggled to get hold of credit during the economic slowdown, may have been increasingly tempted to turn to the mafia, said the report.

Typical victims of extortionate lending were middle-aged shopkeepers and small businessmen who would struggle to find a new job and who were ready to try anything to avoid bankruptcy, it added.

“They are usually people in traditional retail sectors like food, greengrocers, clothes or shoe shops, florists or furniture shops. These are the categories which, more than any other, are paying the price of the (economic) crisis,” it said.

According to a separate report this week from small business association CNA, 56 percent of companies had seen banks tighten their lending requirements in the past three months. ($1 = 0.7826 euros)

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Ben Harding)

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Italy Targets Mafia’s Grip On Legitimate Economy


It’s been a rough few days for Italy’s Mafia families as the criminal justice system continues to break their illegitimate hold over the legitimate economy.

Naples court convicted 30 mobsters from Cosa Nostra or Sicilian Mafia and the Camorra or Neapolitan Mafia who had formed “an alliance to control fruit and vegetable markets across southern and central Italy” as reported by ANSA.

Meanwhile, police arrested fourteen suspected Camorristi pursuant to a probe into the illegal transport of toxic waste as reported by ANSA, and today arrested four suspected members from the Menditti clan of the Camorra for their alleged roles in “preying on construction and video-game companies” as reported by ANSA.

In 2011 Italian police seized three billion euros or $4 billion from the country’s Mafia as reported by ANSA:  “the police targeted 8,500 individuals and 14,000 companies.”

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RICO Law

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually do it.

Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.

When the U.S. Attorney decides to indict someone under RICO, he or she has the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize a defendant’s assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond. This provision was placed in the law because the owners of Mafia-related shell corporations often absconded with the assets. An injunction and/or performance bond ensures that there is something to seize in the event of a guilty verdict.

In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.[4]

There is also a provision for private parties to sue. A “person damaged in his business or property” can sue one or more “racketeers”. The plaintiff must prove the existence of an “enterprise”. The defendant(s) are not the enterprise; in other words, the defendant(s) and the enterprise are not one and the same. There must be one of four specified relationships between the defendant(s) and the enterprise: either the defendant(s) invested the proceeds of the pattern of racketeering activity into the enterprise; or the defendant(s) acquired or maintained an interest in, or control over, the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering activity; or the defendant(s) conducted or participated in the affairs of the enterprise “through” the pattern of racketeering activity; or the defendant(s) conspired to do one of the above. In essence, the enterprise is the victim of the racketeers. A civil RICO action, like many lawsuits based on federal law, can be filed in state or federal court.

Both the federal and civil components allow for the recovery of treble damages (damages in triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages).

Although its primary intent was to deal with organized crime, Blakey said that Congress never intended it to merely apply to the Mob. He once told Time, “We don’t want one set of rules for people whose collars are blue or whose names end in vowels, and another set for those whose collars are white and have Ivy League diplomas.

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All About Mafia

The real name of the Mafia (Cosa Nostra)

According to some mafiosi, the real name of the Mafia is Cosa Nostra (literally “our thing”), meaning ‘our world, tradition, values’. Many have claimed, as did the Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta, that the word “mafia” was a literary creation. Other Mafia defectors, such as Antonio Calderone and Salvatore Contorno, said the same thing. According to them, the real thing was “cosa nostra”. To men of honour belonging to the organisation, there is no need to name it. Mafiosi introduce known members to other known members as belonging to “cosa nostra” (our thing) or “la stessa cosa” (the same thing). Only the outside world needs a name to describe it, hence the capitalized version of the words: Cosa Nostra.

American Cosa Nostra

The Sicilian Mafia’s power in the United States peaked in the mid-20th century, until a series of FBI investigations in the 1970s and 1980s reduced the Mafia’s influence. Despite its decline, the Mafia continues to be the most dominant criminal organization operating in the U.S. and uses this status to maintain control over much of both Chicago’s and New York City’s organized criminal activity. The Mafia and its reputation have become entrenched in American popular culture, being portrayed in movies, TV shows, commercial advertising and even video games.The American Mafia, specifically the Five Families, has its roots in the Sicilian Mafia, but has been a separate organization in the United States for many years. Today, American Cosa Nostra cooperates in various criminal activities with the different Italian organized crime groups which are headquartered in Italy. It is wrongly known as the “original Mafia”, although it was neither the oldest criminal organisation, nor the first to act in the U.S. In 1986, according to government reports, it was estimated that there are 1,700 members of “La Cosa Nostra” and thousands of associate members. Reports also are said to include the Italian-American Mafia as the largest organized crime group in the United States and continues to hold dominance over the National Crime Syndicate, despite the increasing numbers of street gangs and other organizations of neither Italian nor Sicilian ethnicity. American Cosa Nostra is most active in the New York metropolitan area, Philadelphia, New England, Detroit, and Chicago, but has members in many other major cities around the United States and also participates in international criminal activities.

History of Sicilian Cosa Nostra

Origins

It has long been debated as to whether or not the mafia has medieval origins. Deceased pentito Tommaso Buscetta thought so, whilst modern scholars now believe otherwise. It is possible that the ‘original’ mafia formed as a secret society sworn to protect the Sicilian population from the threat of Spanish marauders in the fifteenth Century. However, there is very little historical evidence to suggest this. It is also feasible that this ‘Robin Hood’ myth was perpetuated by the earliest known mafiosi as a means of gaining goodwill and trust from the Sicilian people.

After the revolutions of 1848 and 1860, Sicily had fallen to complete disorder. The earliest mafiosi, then separate, small bands of outlaws, offered their guns in the revolt. Author John Dickie claims that the main reasons for this would be the chance to burn police records and evidence, and to kill off police and pentiti in the chaos. However, once a new government was established in Rome and it became clear that the mafia would be unable to execute these actions, they began refining their methods and techniques over the latter half of the nineteenth century. Protecting the large lemon groves and estates of local nobility became a lucrative but dangerous business. Palermo was initially the main area of these activities, but the Sicilian mafia’s dominance soon spread over all of western Sicily. In order to strengthen the bond between the disparate gangs and so ensure greater profits and a safer working environment, it is possible that the mafia as such was formed at this time in about the mid-nineteenth century.

Mafia after the unification of Italy

From 1860, the year when the new unified Italian state first took over both Sicily and the Papal states, the Popes were hostile to the new state. From 1870, the Pope declared himself besieged by the Italian state and strongly encouraged Catholics to refuse to cooperate with the state. In mainland Italy this took a peaceful character. Sicily was strongly Roman Catholic, but in a strongly tribal way rather than an intellectually informed way, and had a tradition of suspicion of outsiders. The friction between the Church and the Italian state gave a great advantage to violent criminal bands in Sicily who could claim to peasants and townspeople that cooperating with the police (representing the new Italian state) was an anti-Catholic action. It was in the two decades following the 1860 unification of Italy that the term Mafia came to the attention of the general public, although it was considered to be more of an attitude and value system than an organization.

The first mention in official law documentation of the ‘mafia’ came in the late 1800’s, when a Dr. Galati was subject to threats of violence from a local mafiosi, who was attempting to oust Galati from his own lemon grove in order to move himself in. Protection rackets, cattle rustling and bribery of state officials were the main sources of income and protection for the early mafia. Cosa Nostra also borrowed heavily from masonic oaths and rituals, such as the now famous initiation ceremony.

Fascist era

During the Fascist period in Italy, Cesare Mori, prefect of Palermo, used special powers granted to him to prosecute the Mafia, forcing many Mafiosi to flee abroad or risk being jailed. Many of the Mafiosi who escaped fled to the United States, among them Joseph Bonanno, nicknamed Joe Bananas, who came to dominate the U.S. branch of the Mafia. However, when Mori started to persecute the Mafiosi involved in the Fascist hierarchy, he was removed, and the Fascist authorities proclaimed that the Mafia had been defeated. Despite his assault on their brethren, Mussolini had his fans in the New York Mafia, notably Vito Genovese.

Rituals of Sicilian Cosa Nostra

The orientation ritual in most families happens when a man becomes an associate, and then, a soldier. As described by Tommaso Buscetta to judge Giovanni Falcone, the neophyte is brought together with at least three “men of honor” of the family and the oldest member present warns him that “this House” is meant to protect the weak against the abuse of the powerful; he then pricks the finger of the initiate and spills his blood onto a sacred image, usually of a saint. The image is placed in the hand of the initiate and lit on fire. The neophyte must withstand the pain of the burning, passing the image from hand to hand, until the image has been consumed, while swearing to keep faith with the principles of “Cosa Nostra,” solemnly swearing “may my flesh burn like this saint if I fail to keep my oath.”
The Sicilians also have a law of silence, called omerta; it forbids the common man, woman or child to cooperate at all with the police or the government, even if the woman knows the name of her husband’s killer.

Structure of Cosa Nostra

 

Sicilian Mafia structure

  1. Capofamiglia – (Don)
  2. Consigliere – (Counselor/Advisor)
  3. Sotto Capo – (Underboss)
  4. Capodecina – (Group Boss/Capo)
  5. Uomini D’onore – (”Men of Honor”)

Traditional terminology

  1. Capo di Tutti Capi (the “Boss of All Bosses”, namely Matteo Messina Denaro for the Sicilian Mafia and Renato Gagliano for the Sacra Corona Unita; not applicable to the American Mafia)
  2. Capo di Capi Re (a title of respect given to a senior or retired member, equivalent to being a member emeritus, literally, “King Boss of Bosses”)
  3. Capo Crimine (”Crime Boss”, known as a Don – the head of a crime family)
  4. Capo Bastone (”Beat Head”, known as the “Underboss” is second in command to the Capo Crimini)
  5. Consigliere (an advisor)
  6. Caporegime (”Regime head”, a captain who commands a “crew” of around ten Sgarriste or “soldiers”)
  7. Sgarrista or Soldati (”Soldier”, made members of the Mafia who serve primarily as foot soldiers)
  8. Picciotto (”Little man”, a low ranking member who serves as an “enforcer”)
  9. Giovane D’Onore (an associate member, usually someone not of Italian or Sicilian ancestry)

American Cosa Nostra

  • Boss – The head of the family, usually reigning as a dictator, sometimes called the “don”, or “godfather”. The Boss receives a cut of every operation taken on by every member of his family. Depending on the Family, the Boss may be chosen by a vote from the Caporegimes of the family. In the event of a tie, the Underboss must vote. In the past, all the members of a Family voted on the Boss, but by the late 1950s, any gathering that large attracted too much attention.
  • Underboss – The Underboss, usually appointed by the Boss, is the second in command of the family. The Underboss is considered the Boss that is in charge of all of the other Capos, who is controlled by the Boss. The Underboss is usually first in line to become Acting Boss if the Boss is imprisoned or dies.
  • Consigliere – Consigliere is an advisor to the family. They are often low profile gangsters that can be trusted. They are used as a mediator of disputes or representatives or aids in meetings with other Families. They often keep the Family looking as legitimate as possible, and are, themselves, legitimate apart from some minor gambling or loan sharking. Often Consiglieres are lawyers or stock brokers, are trusted and have a close friendship or relationship with the Don. They usually do not have crew of their own, but still wield great power in the Family. They are also often the liaison between the Don and important ‘bought’ figures, such as politicians or Judges.
  • Caporegime (or Capo)- A Capo (sometimes called a Captain) is in charge of a crew. There are usually four to six crews in each family, possibly even seven to nine crews, each one consisting of up to ten Soldiers. Capos run their own small family, but must follow the limitations and guidelines created by the Boss, as well as pay him his cut of their profits. Capos are nominated by the Underboss, but typically chosen by the Boss himself.
  • Soldier – Soldiers are members of the family, and can only be of Sicilian background. Soldiers start as Associates that have proven themselves. When the books are open, meaning that there is an open spot in the family, a Capo (or several Capos) may recommend an up-and-coming Associate to be a new member. In the case that there is only one slot and multiple recommendations, the Boss will decide. The new member usually becomes part of the Capo’s crew that recommended him.
  • Associate – An Associate is not a member of the mob, but more of an errand boy. They’re usually a go-between or sometimes deal in drugs to keep the heat off the actual members. In other cases, an associate might be a corrupt labor union delegate or businessman. Non-Sicilians will never go any further than this. However, occasionally an associate will become powerful within his own family, for example Joe Watts, a close associate of John Gotti.

Each Family has it's own rules

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