ITALIAN ORGANIZED CRIME GROUPS

HISTORY OF THE WORD “MAFIA”
The origin of “mafia” is not known for certain. According to one story, it began with the French invasion of Sicily in 1282, and the saying “Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela!” (“Death to the French is Italy’s Cry!”) or M.A.F.I.A.
The word was first published in 1862 in a play by Giuseppe Rizzuto, called “I Mafiusi della Vicaria” (The Mafia in the Vicarage”) about a secret criminal group in the prisons of Palermo.

In Sicily, the word mafia tends to mean “manly”, and used to be applied to someone without necessarily meaning they were a criminal.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF SICILIAN MAFIA
Sicily has had to adapt to numerous invasions: Arabs in the ninth century, Normans in the 11th century, French in the 12th, Spanish in the 15th, as well as invasions by the Germans, Austrians and Greeks. Secret societies in the hills were needed to resist foreign rulers.
Joining the mafia is like joining a religion. It is a lifetime commitment, stronger than any ties to other religions, state or even family. You cannot retire from it.

Mafia leadership is called the “Cupola”, like a board of directors, made up of bosses. The bosses of individual units are called “caporegime”, and the workers are called “soldiers”.

The American branch of the Mafia, named “La Cosa Nostra” (LCN) is believed to have been started by Don Vito Cascio Ferro, who fled to New York following the murder of banker Emanuele Notarbartolo in Sicily, in 1893. More mafioso fled to America during the 1920’s, when Mussolini attempted to eradicate the mafia in Sicily.

When the Allies liberated Italy in World War II, they freed anti-Mussolini prisoners, including many Mafia. Some were installed in positions of power, and thus began to interweave politics and organized crime in Italy. The mafia moved from the rural hills to the cities of Sicily.
MAFIA AND DRUGS
In 1957 at the Grand Hotel des Palmes, in Palermo, the Sicilian mafia met with representatives of the American La Cosa Nostra (LCN) to organized an international heroin trade. It was arranged that the Sicilians would run heroin into the United States and Canada, and the LCN would sell it.
Some of the same Sicilians were arrested at the Appalachian crime meeting in New York state, one month later.

As the profits from heroin poured in, the Sicilians set up outposts in South America, Mexico and many European countries.

The current (1996) leader of this narco-Mafia is thought to be Salvatore “Toto” Riina, currently in jail in Italy. His underboss is allegedly Bernardo Provenzano.

Riina is allegedly responsibly for at least 100 murders, including other Mafia clan members, judges and policemen. The most spectacular crimes attributed to him were the 1992 murders of magistrate Giovanni Falcone (along with his wife and bodyguards), and Falcone’s colleague Paolo Borsellino (and 5 of his bodyguards). Falcone was killed when the highway blew up under him. Some believe that Falcone had uncovered links between the Mafia and the highest levels of Italian government.
OTHER ITALIAN CRIME GROUPS

1. ‘NDRANGHETA:

Known as “The Honored Society”, Fibbia or Calabrian mafia. Based in southern Italy (not in Sicily). Instead of the pyramid structure of bosses used by other mafia, ‘Ndrangheta” uses families based on blood relationships, inter-marriages, or being a Godfather. Each group is named after their village, or after the family leader.
‘Ndrangheta began as a defense mechanism for impoverished rural peasants against their aristocratic land-lords. Members of these Calabrian crime groups emigrated to Canada and the United States, and were discovered running a “black hand” intimidation scheme in Pennsylvania mining towns in 1906. In the 1970’s it branched into the drug trade, and is now international.

Police investigations of ‘Ndrangheta are difficult, since it is composed of family members. Nicaso estimates there are 155 ‘Ndrangheta families, with about 6,000 members.

The Siderno Group is a leading Calabrian family, in both Italy and North America. The leader is Comiso “the Quail” Commisso, with many other Commisso family members deeply involved, some of them in Canada, United States, Germany and even Australia. All members go through the ‘ndrangheta ceremony “a series of obscure questions and answers spoken rapidly in the Calabrian dialect, full of flowery phrases of loyalty and implied violence.” (Global Mafia, page 63)

The Commissos and other ‘ndrangheta clans are supposedly involved in narcotics, organized kidnapping, extortion, theft, counterfeiting and construction work involving bribes and pay- offs.

The ‘Ndrangheta often live without outward signs of wealth or power. They have evolved into money laundering, political influence, the arms trade, illegal disposal of radioactive and hazardous waste, and are buying into legitimate businesses.

According to informant Calogero Marceno, the ‘Ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) have split into two levels: the “maggiore” (senior level) and the “minore” (junior level). This places a barrier between low-level common crimes and higher-level political and white-collar crimes.

Reportedly the group has shipped European heroin to the U.S., where it was traded for cocaine to be re-sold in Europe. There was/is also a large-scale marijuana growing operation in Australia. ‘Ndrangheta works with other mafia groups, as well as the Colombians.
2. CAMORRA

Originated from the Spanish group, the Garduna, transplanted when Spain took Naples in the sixteenth century. In addition to initiation ceremonies, blood oaths and secret signs, the new member was expected to commit a murder for final recognition.
The Camorra has small groups led by a “caporegime”, and is governed by a Grand Ruling Council. Camorra was city-based from the start, unlike the rural Mafia and ‘Ndrangheta. In the past, the Camorra has used the Roman Catholic church as a cover. The Camorra provided smuggling to the Sicilian mafia’s heroin trade, starting in the 1970’s. Previously, these Naples-based gangs were renowned for tobacco smuggling.

More recently the Camorra has mad links to gangs in the former Soviet Union, and is under investigation for smuggling of Russian weapons and even nuclear material.

“There are 111 operating Camorra families: 25 in Naples, 12 in the province of Salerno, 17 in Caserta province, four in Benevento, and 11 in Avellino. There are also Camorra groups in other parts of Italy, as well as in Holland, Germany, Romania, France, Spain, Scotland, and in the Dominican Republic. total membership in July 1993 was approximately 6,700.” (Global Mafia, page 68).
3. SACRA CORONA UNITA (SCU)
This is a new crime group, appearing in 1983, called the Sacra Corona Unita (United Sacred Crown). It has some religious symbolism, similar to the Camorra. SCU leader Giuseppe Rogoli revealed a pyramidal structure to the SCU, with “camorristi” (soldiers) at the bottom; as well as “sgarristi” (enforcers), “santisti”, “evangelisti” and “trequartino” levels of membership. The “crimine” was the boss.
Informer Cosimo Capodieci said the SCU used “the Crown (Corona) because it resembles a crown, meaning the rosary typically used in Church in order to carry out the functions of Jesus Christ and the cross… United (Unita) because it was necessary to be connected to one another, similar to the rings of a chain.” [as quoted in The Global Mafia, pg 69]

Investigations by police and reports showed the SCU had links to the Colombians, other Italian crime groups, as well as Russian and Asian organized crime groups. The SCU were behind the smuggling of thousands of Albanians into Italy, and have been called “modern-day slave traders”. The SCU also sent Albanian women into prostitution in Italy.
4. STIDDA (the Star)
A newly discovered Italian crime group, about which little is published. Not an “honor” system like the Mafia, but intended for criminal action and profit.
Stidda (which means Star) members are called “stiddaroli” or “stiddari”. The group is based in rural Sicily. Reportedly, the older members of the clan, take a needle to create a black and blue ink five-point star or circle tattoo on the web of the person’s right hand, between thumb and index finger. Sometimes the tattoo is found on the shoulder or arm.

The Stidda and Sicilian Mafia are essentially competitors, and Stidda boss Calogero Lauria was killed by dynamite, supposedly by the Mafia.

Source: Alternative Media -News

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