Mafia and Mafia-type organizations in Italy

Umberto Santino

Mafia and Mafia-type organizations in Italy

Introduction: the Sicilian Mafia as a local and transnational criminality and the proliferation of the Mafia-type organizations

The term “Mafia”, first used only to define a Sicilian phenomenon, is now used to describe any organized criminal group and it is certainly one of the words in the Italian language that is the best known and most used internationally.

This is not only due to the influence of the media, who tend to simplify reality with labels which are often incongruous and misleading. The phenomenon called “Mafia” as developed in Sicily, presents some characteristics which have made it a sort of paradigm, or frame of reference for similar organizations which have developed elsewhere in more recent times.

Mass media represents the Mafia as a sort of universal Evil, the “octopus” that controls all criminal activities: from drug to arms trafficking and now even radioactive substances. In reality, the Sicilian Mafia can be considered a “winning model” of Organized Crime (at least until now) due to its complexity and long-standing role in society, but care must be taken against stereotypes that always see the octopus’ tentacles everywere.

The Mafia’s strength lies in its capacity to be both local and international and transnational, in the sense that it grew to a worldwide level without losing its roots in Sicilian society. Its strong-point has historically been the capacity to combine continuity with innovation: it has never abandoned its traditional activities (extortion for example) but knew how to choose the most profitable activities and become a part of them.

Immigration to the United States during the end of the XIX century has also had a role in the formation of this “cultural elasticity and adaptability”, even though, at first the connections between Sicilian Mafiosos and Sicilian-Americans were rare. Only after the second world war has the connection between them grown closer and drug trafficking has “welded” Sicily to the United States, but both groups remain autonomous. In the last decades the Sicilian Mafia has grown on the national, European and international level. It has trafficked heroin with the French Connection, with Turkish, Middle East and Asiatic clans and now deals cocaine with the Latin-American cartels. International channels are used for money laundering from Switzerland to tax havens worldwide. At first the Mafia organization was only present in the Western part of Sicily, now it is found throughout Sicily and in many Italian regions, European countries and in the world. Many criminal organizations similiar to the Mafia are present in Italy: the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Camorra in Campania, the Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia and other groups. On the international level, besides historical groups like the Japanese Yakusa and the Chinese Triads, new organizations like the South American cartels and the Russian Mafia have formed.

The earnings from the activities of Organized Crime cannot be determined exactly. According to prudent estimates, the amount of illegal capital is between 500-700 billion dollars per year. The biggest part of the proceeds arise from drug trafficking.

Today the criminal market is complex because the criminal activities are more articulated and the criminal groups have grown in number. Therefore, it is misleading to sustain that the Mafia or any other criminal organization has a monopoly on world crime. There isn’t a monarchy, a Number One, in the Organized Crime world, but there are many republics that variously interact and are protagonist of the international division of criminal labor.

Today’s society produces criminality because of some of its main characteristics (the globalization of capitalism increases the gap between underdeveloped nations and developed nations and between social groups, the financiarization of economy and the liberalization of the circulation of capitals offer many possibilities to laundering illegal capitals, the prohibition of drugs has made the traffickers the richest criminals of the history) and the intertwining of legal and illegal economies as well as of criminal organizations and the social and institutional context. Drugs and money laundering are the best known aspects of today’s criminal activities, but the most devastating is the connection between politics and crime. This mixture between illegal and legal, criminal and institutional, is the heart of the Mafia’s historical model, but it has grown and spread independently of the presence of Sicilian Mafiosos or Sicilian-Americans. It is not the Mafia that has invaded the world, it is the world that has produced more and more groups and organizations of the Mafia-type.

1. Nature and extent of Organized Crime in Italy. The Sicilian Mafia and the other Mafia-type groups

1.1. Mafia-type association: the official definition

The Italian anti-Mafia law of September 1982, defines for the first time Mafia-type association in the following way: the intimidatory power of the bond of association, the condition of subjection and of “omertà” derived from intimidation1 .

Compared to other criminal associations, that exist as long as there is a bond of association, an organized structure and a plan of criminal activity, the Mafia has the extra capacity of being able to exercise power through systematic intimidation which is referred to as omertà. This can be defined as the “law of silence”, and it consists in the duty of associates to keep silent about a secret. However this also applies to everyone else, because the Mafia rules over an extensive area and many citizens either by habit or out of fear, even if they know where the Mafiosi are to be found or even if they have witnessed a Mafia crime, do not collaborate with the forces of law and order.

The Mafia organization par excellence, in the sense that it is the oldest, most numerous and most powerful is that called Cosa Nostra, the structure of which has been disclosed since 1984 via the testimonies of various Mafioso State’s witnesses, the so-called “pentiti” (repenters) including Buscetta, Contorno, Calderone and Marino Mannoia.

Cosa Nostra has been described by judges as a unified organization, pyramid-like and with a powerful summit. At the bottom there are the families, that take the name of the territory that they control, a quarter of Palermo or a village. The family is composed of so-called uomini d’onore (men of honor) in numbers varying from ten to one hundred. They are organized into groups of ten, at the head of which there is a capodecina. At the head of the family there is the capofamiglia who has a deputy and a few advisors. Three or more families with adjoining territories are represented by the capimandamenti who are members of the cupola or commissione. This is the central direction of the Mafia which supervises all the activities of the whole organization on a provincial level and the head is called capocommissione. For some years, there has been an “inter-provincial” structure which co-ordinates the activity on Sicilian soil. Within this structure, the capocommissione of Palermo dominates2 . Cosa Nostra is a type of elite of the Mafia organizations which includes external and contrasting groups. For example, there is the “Stidda” in the provinces of Agrigento and Caltanissetta and there are many groups operating in Catania but only a few of them are members of Cosa Nostra. Recent official reports identified 181 Mafia groups operating in Sicily, with 5,487 affiliates 3.

1.2. The Mafia-enterprise: a sociological definition

The Mafia phenomenon is much wider and much more complex than Cosa Nostra and the Mafia criminal organizations because it has aspects which are other than merely criminal.

In recent years the idea has been widely accepted that the Mafia is, or more accurately, has become since the 70s, an enterprise. Such an expression, sometimes unknowingly, is used with a double meaning. The first meaning is that this same criminal activity is conducted in the same way as an enterprise, with a rational combination of the means and the results (illicit enterprise). The second meaning implies that there are legal economic activities which nevertheless have certain characteristics, identified by the anti-Mafia law. They are run by the Mafiosi, they employ illegally-earned capital and use intimidatory tactics against the competition4 .

The former, which we could call Mafia-enterprise is in reality not a recent phenomenon inasmuch that Mafia activity, from the beginning, was undertaken according to rational decisions and with the aim of self-enrichment. Neither are the legal economic activities of Mafiosi a new phenomenon. These legal activities existed as far back as the 20s in the USA, and are documented in Palermo as far back as the 50s. The definition of the Mafia as an enterprise shows us another aspect of the Mafia, that of its economic aims, but even this does not fully define the Mafia in all its complexity.

1.3. The paradigm of complexity

To get a comprehensive idea of this complexity, I have proposed the following definition: Mafia is a system of violence and illegality that aims to accumulate wealth and to obtain positions of power; which also uses a cultural code and which enjoys a certain popular support5 . In this way the Mafia phenomenon is seen to be a complete unit with multifarious aspects; criminal, economic, political, cultural and social.

In this view the actual criminal association is part of a network of relationships which is much vaster: a social block with an interclass composition that ranges from the lowest social levels to the highest. Inside this system of relationships, the dominant function is carried out by the legal-illegal class which is the richest and most powerful, defined as the Mafia bourgeoisie (probably tens of thousands of people). For the poorer and more marginalized levels, the criminal activity represents the only, or one of the few, means of earning a living; as well, a criminal career offers the real possibility of social mobility. The number of people involved and their respective roles is difficult to determine. Nevertheless there are probably hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Mafia or in illegal activities in Sicily.

The Sicilian society can be considered to be a society producing Mafia (“società mafiogena”) for these reasons:

because many people consider violence and illegality as a form of survival and as a way of acquiring a social role;
violence and illegality are usually unpunished;
the legal economy is too weak to offer substantial opportunities;
the State and the institutions are seen distant and foreign, approachable through the mediation of the Mafiosi and their friends;
the struggles against the Mafia have been lost and the consequence for many people is the mistrust, the belief that it is impossible to change the situation;
the social life is lacking because of a crisis of political parties, an insufficient role of trade unions and civil society is too weak and precarious etc.
Mafia is a form of totalitarian State and its peculiarity is the territorial control (“signoria territoriale”), from the economy to politics, to private life. For the Mafia rights don’t exist, there are only favours.

This concept of the Mafia phenomenon aims to go beyond many of the other ideas, which lack the scientific approach (stereotypes), in particular those spread by the mass media, which represent the Mafia either as an emergency (which means that the Mafia exists only when it shoots someone, which is worrying only when it affects important people and is a national issue when it affects the highest levels), or as being an anti-state (this stereotype interprets the crimes of the Mafiosi as a war against the State, when these crimes have political and institutional representatives as victims. However it often affects politicians, magistrates and other institutional representatives who have been isolated and obstructed within the institutional world).

The Mafia is not a temporary emergency, but a permanent structural phenomenon. It is not anti-State even though, being a criminal organization both externaland opposed to the State, it does not recognise the State’s monopoly of power and force (the Mafiosi “dispense justice themselves”, by using crimes, in particular murder, as if they had the right to do so). The Mafia operates inside political institutions, as far as its economic and political aspects are concerned (tenders for public works, control of voters, the relations between the dominant class and the bureaucratic apparatus) which all add to the Mafia phenomenon, distinguishing it from the usual forms of criminal organization.

1.4. Brief history of the Mafia: continuity and transformation

As far as the evolution of the Mafia is concerned, one usually speaks of the “old Mafia” and the “new Mafia”, of a traditionalist Mafia in competition for honour and power, which suffered a crisis in the 60s and which in the 70s became an entrepreneurial Mafia, in competition for wealth.

A more accurate interpretation emerges if, instead of using criteria which emphasises the breaking away from and abandoning of the old ways and substituting them with modern methods, we use other criteria, which emphasise continuity and transformation. According to this interpretation the old ways were not abandoned, but in fact continue to exist side by side with the new ways. There is no single drug Mafia, and no single extortion Mafia, and no single Mafia which tenders for public works, because they are all co-ordinated by the same group. In the same way, there is no modern or post-modern Mafia, which has eliminated the old and traditional Mafia, but there has been a historical evolution which involves both the old and the new.

A fundamental issue which has to be clarified, and which is completely without substance, is the distinction between the Mafia made up of “men of honor” who set store by traditional values such as honour, and a new Mafia which is said to have substituted the culture of honour with the culture of wealth and easy money. The Mafia has always been a criminal organization, it has always massacred people anonymously with only one aim in mind, money and power. The honour, about which people speak, that relates to the “old Mafia”, was only a mask of respectability, which hid criminal activities and which was not connected to an abstract concept of virtue, but rather the ability to acquire wealth, which is indispensable for gaining a higher position on the social ladder.

It is possible to identify phases in the evolution of the Mafia phenomenon, but only inasmuch as one can identify one aspect as prevailing over others, and only by referring to changes in the social context, towards which the Mafia has always shown itself to be extremely flexible, and capable of adaptation. We can distinguish between the following four phases:

A long incubation period which goes from the 16th century to the early 19th century, during which period there was no Mafia as we know it now but a pre-Mafia phenomenon existing within the transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Using the scheme proposed by the historian, Immanuel Wallerstein, who in the formation of a “world economic system” distinguishes between centre (where salaried work and the centralized State prevail), semi-periphery (where sharecropping and the policentralism of the State prevail) and periphery (slave-like labour and a power vacuum)6 , Sicily figures as an anomalous semi-periphery, with an oligopoly of violence which is divided between the State, the baronial powers and the simultaneous presence of salaried work and sharecropping.

The pre-Mafia phenomena were as follows: a) regularly unpunished crimes commited by criminals controlled by the barons, who maintained private militias made up of professional criminals. In this way, it was possible to identify a “protected criminality” because it was an expression of those in power, whereas the bandits, who expressed the rebellion of the lower classes, were swiftly and thoroughly punished. b) The economic aim of crimes (like thefts, robberies, kidnapping of people and thefts of animals) was the accumulation of wealth.

An agrarian phase, which started even before the formation of the unified State in Italy, and which continued up until the 1950s. In Western Sicily, an area in which the Mafia phenomenon is to be found, the Mafiosi were above all an expression of the middle classes. They operated within the large country estates of internal Sicily (as rent collectors of the estates, “Gabelloti”) and they also operated in the citrus fruit groves around Palermo. They were in collaboration-competition with the big landowners, who were often absentees. They held local power and they acted as mediators between the local community and the State. They had a fundamental role in the repression of peasant discontent, often murdering and massacring to achieve their ends. These methods were used since the first peasant movement (the Fasci siciliani in 1892-94) to the struggles that took place after the Second World War.
The most symbolic episode was the massacre at Portella della Ginestra on 1st May 1947, in which 12 peasants lost their lives. The massacre was carried out by bandits, who were under the wing of the landowners and the Mafia, both of whom wanted to see the agrarian reform movement stopped, as well as to give a firm response to the first, and last, success at the regional elections of the left wing. The massacre had an important role to play in the throwing out of left wing parties from the national government, and at the elections of 18 April 1948, which brought in a centralist government, with plainly conservative aims.

The role of the Mafiosi in these initial stages of the Sicilian Regional Government and of the Italian Republic is also explained by the importance that the Mafiosi had prior to the setting up of the State. This importance emerged during and after the landing of the Allies in Sicily, when Mafiosi had a role in the social control of Sicilian society giving direct power in various local councils by the Allies.

An urban-entrepreneurial phase existed from the mid 1950s until the 60s. After the defeat of the peasant struggle, the emigration from Sicily and southern Italy began (from 1951 to 1971, 4 million people emigrated, including one million from Sicily). At this time the importance of the cities grew, with a huge expansion in the number of public employees and the rise of building speculation.
The Mafiosi-entrepreneurs of this period could be called the State Bourgeoisie, because public financing and tenders for Public Works played a crucial role in their origin. Through the smuggling of contraband cigarettes in the Mediterranean area, the Mafia groups began to operate more on an international level, backed by collaboration with North American Mafiosi in drug trafficking.

The present day Mafia, from the 70s to today, could be defined as a financial Mafia: the Sicilian Mafiosi, who now control territory all over the island, are assuming an increasingly important role in the trafficking of drugs, and are also accumulating enormous wealth. Their illegal capital is channelled into the financial markets, recycled and then reinvested in a thousand different ways. Of course some of the money is reinvested in the original illegal activity. Sometimes there is competition within the Mafia itself (for example, the particularly bloody Mafia war 1981-83). When politicians, judges or the forces of law and order oppose them, or do not satisfy their requests, they unleash a violent offensive.
The financial Mafia has an international range of activities, resulting from its illegal gains (official sources are speaking for Mafia and for the other groups of Mafia-type about 69,000 billion lira per annum: 45 billion dollars) as well as its infiltration into the financial system, taking advantage of the international rule that ensures banking secrecy, the proliferation of tax havens and the possibility of avoiding controls on capital, making use of the new forms of the circulation and raising of money, the so-called “financial innovations”: trust companies (società fiduciarie), atypical stocks (titoli atipici), common funds, futures etc.7 .

1.5. Mafia as political subject: double Mafia in a double State

Speaking about the relationship between Mafia and politics the media use the term “the third level”: a summit of politicians, financiers, members of masonic lodges etc. superimposed above Mafia (the “supercupola”). But the relationship between Mafia and politics is more complex than this description.

Mafia is a political subject in two senses:

being an association, Mafia is a political group, having all the individual charateristics of that type of group as defined by classic sociology: a code (a group of rules), territorial extension, physical coercion, an administrative force capable of insuring the observance of the rules and effecting coercive measures8 ;
it contributes as an association and as a social coalition to the production of politics in a comprensive sense, that is, it determines or contributes in the decisions and choices that regard the manipulation of power and the distribution of resources 9.
In its relationship with the State and other institutions, Mafia is two faced: it is contemporarily outside and against the State, because it doesn’t recognize the State’s monopoly of violence and naturally resorts murder (having the death penalty in its code). It is inside and with the State because a series of activities are connected with the use of public finances (for example, contracts for public works) and imply their active participation in public life (elections, control of the functioning of institutions).

Even the State when dealing with Mafia has been characterized by the use of fundamentally double standards. If until 1982 the Mafia wasn’t considered to be a criminal organization, the murders and other crimes committed by the Mafiosi were, but the impunity that they enjoyed signifies the renunciation of the State of its monopoly on violence. The impunity may be considered a form of legitimation, therefore, it may be said that in Italy there have been two ways of dealing with violence. This may be explained by the fact that Mafia violence, that has had as victims mainly political and social opponents that symbolize renewal, has been useful for the maintaining of power by the dominant classes every time that the direct intervention of the State was impossible, due to evident illegality or wouldn’t have been as rapid and brutal as Mafia violence.

In this way Mafia was symbolized as institutionalized criminality, while inside the State there was a split between “formal constitution” and “material constitution”, that is, between the written principles and the real behavior, and actual criminal institutions were formed. It has been said that since the end of the second world war Italy’s democracy has been blocked, formally open but virtually “off limits” to the opposition. It was an effect of international “bipolarism”: in fact there was an interaction between the internal and the international policies. The secret services, the masonic lodge P2 (a secret lodge of which were members the chiefs of the secret services, many politician, magistrates, etc.), the neofascists have had a Mafia type role in this terroristic strategy (“strategia della tensione”).

From 1969 to 1984 in Italy there were 8 massacres with 150 dead and 688 injured. Only for the massacre of Christmas 1984 the guilty parties have been punished for their crimes.

1.6. Mafia today

Making the homicides and the massacres of 1992 (killing the member of European Parliament Salvo Lima, old Mafia’s friend, the Mafioso-financier Ignazio Salvo; magistrates engaged in investigation on Mafia as Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo, Paolo Borsellino and 8 of their body-guards) and of 1993 (attempts in Rome, massacres in Florence and Milan with 10 victims) Sicilian Mafia, probably with the complicity of other subjects, like secret services, masonic lodges etc., has thought to close a historical phase in which the relationship between Mafia and politics became through the mediation of Christian Democracy and to lay a strong claim to the “second republic”: a form of criminal omnipotence’s delirium. These crimes have had many boomerang effects: the arrest of many bosses hiding from justice (Totò Riina has been fugitive for 23 years and he has been taken in the centre of Palermo), new laws, the army in Sicily (essentially a symbolic presence), the increasing number of “pentiti”.

Today the situation presents some risks: the idea that Cosa Nostra is dying, lacking attention for other forms of criminal organizations of Mafia-type, the possibility that many Mafiosi simulate to be “pentiti” to obtain impunity and continue in their activities; these events and this representation of reality contain the danger of a drop in the institutional engagement.

Probably today the bosses still fugitives and the new leaders are thinking that it is more convenient to abandon the bloodline and to return to the classical Mafia model: mediation instead of war, to submerge and not to show off, less violence and more business. The problem is to find new links with the political world. Italy is living a period of transition between the “first republic” and the “second republic” and instead of old political parties there are new forces and coalitions. Today Andreotti, the most powerful man in Italy for almost half century, is tried for Mafia and before Craxi, the former socialist leader, was condemned for corruption (the investigation so-called “Tangentopoli”) but the Craxi’s and Andreotti’s “sons” have a role in the present situation.

1.7. The ‘Ndrangheta from Calabria

The ‘Ndrangheta has rural roots and like the Sicilian Mafia has full control of its territory, in particular of isolated areas like Aspromonte, the scene of many of the kidnappings that have taken place in Italy. The high number of murders registered every year in Calabria (Reggio Calabria in the 80’s had the highest murder rate in Italy; 48.7 per 100,000 inhabitants) indicates that among the ‘ndrine, the Calabrian criminal groups, which for the most part are divided along family lines, there is a permanent war, which has not resulted in the supremacy of any one family over another. Various ‘Ndrangheta chiefs are said to be affiliated to the Sicilian Mafia, but in Calabria there is no central criminal power. The dispersion of the various groups and the confrontations between them prevail. The fact that since October 1991 in Reggio Calabria there have been no Mafia murders has been interpreted as a possible clue that one of the groups has gained predominance.

During the 70s, the ‘Ndrangheta began to take a greater part in legal entrepreneurial activities and also assumed a significant role in drug trafficking. It has expanded its operations in Northern Italy, moving its members to the North and exploiting family ties. It now exercises control over the heroin route from the Middle East to the United States, as it does in other areas of the world, for example Australia. It has links with the Latin American cartels for the trafficking of cocaine in Europe. According to recent official reports, there are 160 criminal organizations operating in Calabria, with 5,700 members10 .

1.8. The Camorra of Campania

The Camorra has urban origins and a notably discontinous history. At the end of the 50s, the term “camorra” was used to describe small criminal groups engaged in illegal activities which were limited to certain areas. During the 60s, they grew in size and efficiency due to two factors: firstly the fact that the Neapolitan area had become a centre for cigarette smuggling and secondly the presence of Sicilian Mafia bosses who were being held under house arrest in the area. These bosses set up criminal groups that were branches of “head office”, and they acted in support of the Sicilians in their fight against the Marseillaise for the control of the port and the Neapolitan area. This was a conflict that was resolved at the beginning of the 70s, with the victory of the Sicilians and the consequent rise to power of their allies like the Zaza and Nuvoletta.

During the 70s, the groups from Campania, still in a close alliance with and dependent on the Sicilian Mafia, of which the Zaza, Nuvoletta and Bardellino families are part, started to take part in the drug trade and managed to earn themselves large sums of money.

Raffaele Cutolo, in creating the “New organized camorra” set up a hierarchical organization with a large grass-roots following. This organization fought against the other groups, which were temporarily united within the “New family”. Recently there has been a fragmentation of Camorra groups as a result of the high level of conflict between them, evidenced by the high number of murders among its members.

At the moment, the camorristi of Campania have an important role in drug trafficking. They have operational bases in Spain and in other European countries, as well as in Latin America. According to the DEA, the Camorra controls the arrival of one ton of cocaine per week from Colombia. The camorristi seem to have come to an agreement with the Sicilian Mafia about sharing the international market of heroin and cocaine. There are 145 Camorra organizations, with 7,000 members 11.

1.9. Other Mafia-type groups

Mafia-type groups have formed in other regions of Italy. In Apulia, the best known Mafia-type groups are the Nuova camorra pugliese, the Sacra corona unita, La nuova camorra salentina and the Nuova famiglia salentina libera leccese. The criminal groups are 47 and the members 1,75512 . The founding of such organizations began back in the 70s, when groups of Neapolitan smugglers, to escape the repressive measures being imposed in the Gulf of Naples, transferred their cigarette smuggling activity to the Apulian coast, while strengthening their ties with the local criminals. During the same period the Sicilian Mafiosi set themselves up in Brindisi. The Apulian organizations became involved in the drug trade, extortion, the running of gambling houses and the controlling of prostitution. Today they control the arms trade and the illegal immigration from the Eastern countries in collaboration with new foreign criminal groups.

Persistent Mafia-type organizations have been reported in Lazio, where the Mafia, the ‘ndrangheta, the camorra and the local criminal groups operate. There are local groups like the Centocelles and the Magliana which have transformed themselves into Mafia-type organizations, muscling in on the drug trade.

Drug trafficking in the other regions has undergone an important development, as in Emilia, Liguria, Lombardy and in Veneto, where it is now in the hands of southerners who are working with the locals. In Veneto the criminal group best known is the “Mafia del Brenta”13 .

Today, at the international level, many old and new criminal groups are similiar to the Sicilian Mafia, because they have, besides specific aspects, homogeneous characteristics, connecting criminal activities with the accumulation of capitals and a political role. For instance: the American Cosa Nostra, the Japanese Yakusa, the Chinese Triads, the Latin-American Cartels, the Russian Mafia, the Nigerian Mafia etc.
2. Measures including legislation to combat Organized Crime in Italy

2. 1. The laws on Mafia and Mafia-type groups in Italy

Only in recent years has Italian legislation prepared itself to deal with the great increase of the Mafia’s activities and with the other forms of Organized Crime. In ten years, from 1982 to 1992, 114 laws regarding Organized Crime were introduced. All of these laws are connected with terrible crimes that shocked both local and international public opinion, and are considered the offspring of the emergency situation, that is, they are answers to the criminal challenge and not part of a coherent law enforcement programme. It is a sort of cycle: the escalation of Mafia violence – the institutional reaction (arrests, trials, condemnations, seizure of illegal properties etc.) – the weakening of institutional reaction and the return to cohabitation…

The first general law, the so called Rognoni-La Torre law (named after the backers of two proposal, the Christian-democrat Minister Virginio Rognoni and the Communist leader Pio La Torre, assassinated April 30, 1982) or “Anti-Mafia law”, was approved September 13, 1982, after the assassination of General-Prefect Dalla Chiesa.

The article 416 bis of the Penal Code, introduced by the new law, definies Mafia as a specific type of criminal association:

The organization is of the Mafia type when its components use intimidation, subjection and, consequencially, silence (omertà), to commit crimes, diretly or indirectly acquire the management or the control of businesses, concessions, authorizations, public contracts and public services to obtain either unjust profits or advantages for themselves or others 14.
Besides the creation of this type of crime, the most important points of the new anti-Mafia law are the measures taken to control the origins of patrimonies, that allow the confiscation of possessions of illicit origin. During the past years other provisions intervened. The most significant are: the measures against the money laundering, the provisions for those mafiosos that collaborate with law enforcement officials, the revision of the Procedure Code for the treatment of mafiosos, the creation of DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia; Anti-Mafia Investigative Administration) and the DNA (Direzione Nazionale Antimafia or Superprocura: National Anti-Mafia Administration) and the integration of criminal association of the Mafia type, that includes those that interfere with the right to vote.

The crime of laundering money of illicit origin was introduced in Italy in 1978, with article 648 bis of the Penal Code, limited to the profits obtained from aggravated robbery, aggravated extortion and kidnapping for extortion. Article 23 of the law no. 55 of March 19, 1990, extendend the crime to the capital obtained from the production and sale of drugs. Later the law no. 197 of July 5, 1991, introduced «emergency actions to limit the use of cash and bearer securities in transactions and prevent the utilization of the financial system in money laundering». These measures decree that sums above 20 million Lire must be transfered in cash or through approved mediators or by means explicitly indicated.

Law no. 328 of August 28, 1993, repealed in part the European convention on money laundering. This crime today regards any case of reinvestment of profits obtained from any type of crime. There are still some problems: a central data bank is lacking, the companies registry is lacking, so it is impossible to follow transactions between firms, the sums under 20 million lire avoid controls etc.

After the Falcone’s and Borsellino’s assassinations in the Capaci e Via D’Amelio massacres, were taken new emergency measures. The decree no. 306 of June 8, 1992, converted into law no. 356 of August 7, 1992, introduces significant modifications to the Penal Proceedings Code. For example: for the common criminal the proof is constituted during the debate, while for the Mafiosi, due to their capacity to intimidate, proof can be drawn from other proceedings. The new law introduces further measures for “pentiti”, arrange severe prison terms for Mafiosos and has two clauses regarding elections. The first states that it is Organized Crime of the Mafia-type when intimidation is used: to hinder or deny the right to vote or to obtain votes. The second punishes the “political-Mafia exchange”: when a member of the Mafia promises to obtain votes for a politician in exchange for money (the original form of the law included the promise to obtain concessions, authorizations, contracts etc.).

Italian anti-Mafia legislation, judged on the whole, is behind the times, was created as an emergency response and is characterized by the prevalence of symbolic measures.

Organized Crime of the Mafia-type has existed in Sicily since the XIX century, but only with the law of 1982 was the crime of Mafia association introduced. Since the second half of the 1950s the Mafiosi became legitimate entrepreneurs, but only with the law of 1982 can these “Mafia enterprises” be touched. Since the 1970´s the financial size of these Mafia groups, both in terms of their capability of accumulating capital and utilization of the financial system for money laundering, is significant, but only with recent measures can they begin to be fought. After the assassination of General-Prefect Dalla Chiesa have been held the “maxiprocesso” and other trials: many bosses, previously unpunished, have received life sentences and today are in jail, in state of “severe imprisonment” (carcere duro: 41 bis).

Regarding the relationships between Mafia and local institutions from 1990 to 1995, 83 city councils were dissolved for connection with Mafia: 36 in Campania, 24 in Sicily, 14 in Calabria, 7 in Apulia, 1 in Basilicata and 1 in Piemonte.

From 1982 to 1995, illegal goods worth almost 9,000 billion lira were seized, but of the total goods seized, only 967 billion lira worth were confiscated. This represents a very low percentage, as only 11 per cent of the total assets were actually confiscated.
3. Comparative evaluation of various Anti-Organized Crime Measures

3.1. European Union: a continent of variable legality. First tentatives at anti-crime politics

In spite of its limitations, the Italian legislation against Mafia and Organized Crime of the Mafia-type is the most important in Europe. The European Economic Community (EEC) has begun to deal with the problem of Organized Crime only in the last few years but is still far from political unity. The member States have diversified situations, therefore it may be said that it is a “system of variable legality”. A few examples: Organized Crime of the Mafia-type exists only in the Italian code; penal action is obligatory in Italy and Germany, optional in the other nations; the passing of information to other countries is prohibited in Holland if it causes the limitation of liberty of Dutch citizens and is restricted in Germany.

In September 1986 the European Parliament produced a report on “The drug problem in member States of EEC”15 and during 1991 the European Parliament constituted an investigative committee on the diffusion of Organized Crime connected with drug trafficking in the member States. The report of this committee16 makes a distinction between “Organized Crime” and “Institutionalized Crime”.

The following definitions of Organized Crime were given:

crime that is structured in such a way that special measures are required in the application of laws; also crime that has the potential to strike not only local areas but also entire nations.
a set of illegal activities undertaken on a large scale by organizations and structured groups whose main motivations are financial profit and the acquisition of power. Those involved in racketeering frequently try to corrupt politicians or other leading figures in order to reduce the risk of criminal prosecution and to facilitate the expansion of their criminal operations.
The main criminal organizations are referred to as Institutionalized Crime, which is a great deal more dangerous:

Institutionalized Crime can infiltrate into the structure of modern industrialized states in ways not even attempted by “Organized crime”. Given that the trade in narcotics is the most profitable form of criminal activity, it has become the leading feature of Institutionalized and Organized Crime.

Both Institutionalized and Organized Crime, despite their recent evolution, still follow traditional cultural ways and are based on ethnic identity:

By definition, criminal organizations are secret societies and their survival depends on a code of conduct which is particularly severe. Violating this code inevitably brings about physical aggression or murder. It is not surprising to discover that the criminal organizations referred to have a family structure. This is as true for the Kray family of the East End of London in the 60’s, as it is for the Corleone family in Sicily. It also goes for the Bonannos of New York City and the Mussululu family from Turkey. The trust which links members of a family often obviates the need to resort to repressive or coercive measures at the highest levels of criminal organizations, even though homicides are not unknown among members of the same family.

The report gives some informations on the main criminal groups working in Europe. Besides Italian groups (Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra) there are the Japanese Yakusa, the Chinese Triads, the Turkish clan and other ethnic clans like the Pakistani barons, former Yugoslavian groups, Polish organizations and others.

In the report the legal instruments to fight Organized Crime in Europe are divided into three categories: the signed international conventions, the Community’s regulations through the directives, the national regulations. On the European level the new Treaty of the Union contains dispositions regarding the fight against drugs in the public healt sector (Title II, art. 129), regarding penal justice and internal affairs (Title VI) and foreign politics and security (Title V).

The first organism that dealt with the drug problem on the European level was the Pompidou Group. Founded in 1971, since 1980 it has collaborated with the European Council, sponsoring research on the use and trafficking of drugs and coordinating European politics on drugs.

In 1985, the TREVI group (Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism and International Violence) made up of the ministers of the member States of the EEC, decided to deal with the drug problem.

In 1989 the French presidency proposed a seven point plan, among which, common antidrug politics and against money laundering. In December of the some year CELAD (European Committee on the Fight Against Drug Abuse) was created, that proposed a European plan for the fight against drug abuse, approved by the European Council of Rome in December 1990 and reviewd ad updated by the European Council of Edinburgh in 1992.

In June 1994, the EEC Commission presented a proposal for a plan of action, at the European Council and Parliament, in the fight against drugs. The plan has three main points: the reduction of the demand, the fight against illegal trafficking and international measures.

Recently have been constituted the Europol and the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction). Europol is located in The Hague and has few employees and few means. The EMCDDA was established in 1995 and has its headquarters in Lisbon and during 1996 has produced its first report17 .

Regarding money laundering, in June 1991 the EEC Council approved a directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the laundering of profits obtained from illegal activities. The European Council directive considers as crime of money laundering the conversion or the transfer of capital knowing that were obtained from “grave crimes”: the production and trade of drugs and the activities done by members of Organized Crime.

Since September 1, 1993, became effective the European Council’s Convention on laundering and seizure and confiscation of profits of crime, signed by about twenty States, but ratified by few States.

The actual European scheme, with regards to measures against laundering, is quite confused. Regarding the extension of laundering to all “grave crimes”, such a disposition has not been accepted by the member States: all excluded fiscal evasion, while Luxemburg has connected laundering only to capital obtained from narcotics trafficking. Also, in some countries this legislation isn’t applied to certain areas that work as tax havens, for example, the islands of Jersey and Guernsey are not under English laws against laundering.

As is evident, Europe is only at the beginning in the battle against Organized Crime, in great delay and with many uncertainties. The worry about the utilization of the financial system for money laundering has grown since the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) scandal of 1991. One of the expedients used by the BCCI was to take advantage of the difficulties encountered in the collaboration between different countries, therefore, they set up the headquarters in London and the social seat in Luxemburg, where controls are less restrictive, with bank subsidiaries all o ver the world. In July 1993, the EEC Commission formulated a directive proposal that foresees the obligation of a credit institution having its legal headquarters in the same member State in which it has its administrative headquarters.

These measures try to limit the dangers of the liberalization of the circulation of capital with the official opening of the European market in 1993. It has yet to be proven how effective these measures will be, in light of the fact that there is a trend in transnational markets toward the abolition or reduction in control which may render easier the symbiosis between illegal and legal capital.

3.2. The activities of the United Nations against Organized Crime

In 1950 the assembly of United Nations decided the constitution of a committee of experts and the organization of five-year meetings on crime prevention and penal justice.

After the signing of the Vienna Convention of December 1988, the United Nations in 1990 created the UNDCP (United Nations Drug Control Programme), with responsibilities much wider than those of the UNFDAC (United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control). The UNDCP work in four sectors: the reduction of illegal production of drugs, the prevention and reduction of illegal demand, the control of illegal drug trafficking, the reinforcement of the judicial and legal system to strengthen the fight against drugs.

In 1992, a Commission on the prevention of crime was established in Vienna, with the task to fight money laundering and economic criminality.

In June 1994 in Courmayeur (Italy) the ISPAC (International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council) organized a conference on money laundering, soliciting the creation of a world network to control the crime profits and proposing the limitation of banking secrecy. In November 1995, in Naples, a ministerial conference on transnational Organized Crime was held by the United Nations. The conference suggested the adoption at the international level of the crime of Mafia-type association, introduced by the Italian anti-Mafia law, similar to the “conspiracy” legislation introduced in USA with the OCCA (Organized Crime Control Act) of 1970.

3.3. An Italian peculiarity: the movement against the Mafia. The Sicilian experience

There is an other aspect of the Italian peculiarities: the movement against Mafia comprising various forms of initiatives: social and political programmes, public demonstrations, cultural manifestations, educational activities in the schools etc.

In Italy, especially in Sicily, the struggle against the Mafia has played a very important role in the history of the social and political movements engaged in a strategy for a radical transformation of society, fighting against a system of power of which Mafia has been an important part. I would like to talk about this aspect of the fight against the Mafia because my personal experience and many activities of my Centre have been dedicated to this kind of engagement and because this aspect is not well known. The anti-Mafia movement in Sicily is over a century old. The fight against the Mafia once was the peculiar aspect of the class struggle in Sicily, in recent years it has become a form of civil engagement.

We can distinguish between three phases:

the first phase, from the last decade of XIX century to the 1950s;
the second in the 60s and 70s;
the third from the 80s to today.
In the first phase the protagonist of the anti-Mafia struggle was the peasant movement, directed by the trade unions and the political parties, like the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. The peasants struggled for the agrarian reform and for aquiring the power in local councils, against the landowners, the Mafia and the conservative forces. There were hundreds of dead. After every wave of struggle many peasants emigrated, before in USA and then in Northern and Central Europe. There were one million of emigrants in the first years of this century and one million from the 1950s to 1970s.

The second period is a phase of transition: the struggle against the Mafia was in the hands of small minorities. In 1978 there has been the assassination of Giuseppe Impastato, the son of a Mafioso who broke with the father and became a militant of the New Left and a pioneer of a new phase of the anti-Mafia movement, to whom we have dedicated the Sicilian Documentation Centre, founded in 1977. In 1979 we have organized a national demonstration against Mafia, considering the Mafia to be both a national and an international problem.

The third phase began after the assassination of “prefetto” Dalla Chiesa in 1982. Associations have been founded, demonstrations have been organized, and educational work has been held in the schools. The lever has been the indignation, the rebellion against Mafia violence, considered as an attack to democracy, to freedom, to civil and human rights, and to peaceful co-existence. In 1984 many organizations have founded the first “Coordinamento Antimafia”, but this network soon failed. After the massacres of Capaci (Falcone) and Via D’Amelio (Borsellino) there were large demonstrations and various associations then formed the cartel “Palermo anno uno”.

In the last years some shopkeepers and small entrepreneurs have founded antiracket associations against extortion and usury: this movement is stronger in Eastern Sicily than in Western Sicily and it is very weak in Palermo. The experience of the entrepreneur Libero Grassi, assassinated in 1991, has been very isolated.

3.4. The anti-Mafia movement in other Italian regions

Since the 80s there have been many activities against the Mafia and other forms of Organized Crime in many Italian regions, especially in the schools.

In 1994 started “Libera”, a national “association of the associations”. The first “Libera’s” initiative has been to collect almost one million signatures for a project of law for the social use of the confiscated Mafia properties, approved by the Italian Parliament in February 1996. There are many anti-racket associations in the Italian territory and a national network of the anti-racket associations has been constituted in recent years.

3.5. NGO initiatives in Europe

Recently, at the European level some NGOs work together in the ENCODD (European NGO Council on Drugs and Development): an informal network whose main aims are to increase European public awareness about developmental aspects of drugs trade and control policies and to ensure, through coordinated advocacy, that international policies better address the links between drugs and development.

An interesting initiative has been the campaign “Coca ’95”, organized by some European and Latin-American NGOs, to help the coca producers and against the narcotraffickers.


4. Proposed measures including new legislation to combat Organized Crime

4.1. The Italian problems

In Italy the most important problem is to go beyond the “emergency’s logic” putting the various laws in order, that is to build a coherent legislative system against Mafia and other forms of Organized Crime. For instance: it is necessary to specify exactly the configurations of crimes, like the membership to the Mafia-type organization (“associazione mafiosa”) and the complicity in Mafia crime (“concorso esterno in associazione mafiosa”).

Some political men (like the former minister of national government Calogero Mannino) and public servants (like Bruno Contrada) have been charged with complicity (“concorso”), but the former prime minister Giulio Andreotti has been charged with membership (“associazione mafiosa”) even if it doesn’t turn out that he became a formal member of Cosa Nostra taking the prescribed oath.

An other problem is the checking of the confessions of “pentiti”: is it necessary to have external evidence or are they sufficient many confessions of pentiti in agreement? Before the Supreme Court (Cassazione) asserted the first thesis but in the last years has changed the line of approach.

I think that the emergency continues to dominate the Italian scenery still today. In the last years there haven’t been big Mafia assassinations and many people think that the Mafia is at the end of its long history. The term most used in Italy today is “normale”: Italy is becoming a “normal country”, without Mafia, without terrorism, without massacres etc. The “emergency” is finished or at least is finishing. Italy is by now closer to Europe, according the parameters of Maastricht…

In this context the new trend of Italian anti-crime policy is to “normalise” the legislation produced as the consequence of “emergency”. An example: the new treatment of “pentiti”. In the last few years their number has enormously increased: until June 1996 they were 1.177 (430 from Mafia, 224 from Camorra, 158 from ‘Ndrangheta, 101 from Sacra corona unita, 264 from other associations of the Mafia-type), what produces many problems: protection of “pentiti” and their relatives, costs for maintenance etc. In the first days of March 1997 the Italian government has approved a Bill reforming the treatment of the “collaborators of justice” in restrictive sense: they must make their confessions not later than six months from their “repentence”, the mafiosi “pentiti” life sentenced must serve then years of jail etc. We could conclude: before there were too many concessions, now there are too many conditions.


4.2. The international problems. The contradictions of today’s society: basic trends and compensative measures

In Europe and at the international level the problem is to elaborate a Penal Law against Organized Crime and to eliminate the conditions which encourage the development of Organized Crime. Few examples: to adopt the crime of Mafia-type association; to abolish the prohibition of drugs, the banking secrecy and other forms of opacity of the financial system. All these aspects are linked to the general context of the contemporary society.

My thesis is that the diffusion of illegal activities and the proliferation of Mafia-type organizations (that unite legal and illegal activities, have a social and economic role, interact with institutions) can be explained by some fundamental contradictions in today’s society. The most relevant are the following18 :

Contradiction between legality and reality. An example: the prohibition of drugs was confirmed at the United Nations Convention of December 1988, but in spite of the tentatives to reduce the demand and stop drug trafficking, its use has increased and drug traffickers have accumulated and continue to accumulate huge amounts of capital. The abolition of prohibition won’t abolish the Mafia and the other foms of Organized Crime, that have other activities and would dedicate more time to them or find new ones, but would certainly hinder their capability to accumulate capital and would emancipate drug addicts from the slavery of drug dealers without scruples. For many years the debate on prohibition has been dominated by ethical and ideological concerns, but today the discussion places its attention mostly on concrete themes, like the cost-benefit ratio of repressive measures, overcrowded prisons, paralysis of the judicial system, the diffusion of AIDS among drug addicts, the policy of “harm reduction”19 .

Contradiction between the opacity of the financial system and the fight against the money laundering. The international financial system is notoriously opaque, due to banking secrecy, tax havens, financial innovations (that is, new forms of collecting capital and new financial subjects and circuits, created to escape controls) and that favors the symbiosis between illegal and legal capital. The liberalization of the circulation of capital and the creation of large transnational markets (European Economic Community, North-American NAFTA, APEC in the Pacific areas, the Chinese economic area) demolish borders and abolish controls and therefore favor the circulation of all types of capital, including illegal. Antilaundering measures as a consequence risk to be too small and inefficacious when compared to the huge use of transactions. About 1,000 billion dollars are transacted each day on the world market and a large part of that sum is “hot capital” looking for more favorable outlets. Among this huge flow of capital, illegal capital may be easily hidden and laundered.

Contradiction between capitalist restructuring and development politics. In the phase of “capitalist globalization” the capitalistic way of production has extended to the entire world and in the last years the gap between underdeveloped nations and developed nations has grown20. In 1993 the global GNP (Gross National Product) was 23,000 billion dollars, of which 18,000 in the developed countries and 5,000 in the other countries. In the last thirty years the share of the 20% most reach people has increased from 70 to 85%; the share of the 20% most poor people has diminished from 2,3 to 1,4% of the global product. 358 millionaires have the yearly income of 45% of world population. The social gap is also growing in rich areas, with the great increase in unemployment (36,000.000 in OCSE nations; 20,000.000 in Europe).

In consequence of the policies of the United Nations agencies (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization), based on the “structural adjustment” in order to reduce the foreign debt crisis, the public interventions and the legal economies in many areas are dismantled and illegal accumulation becomes the only chance possible. If the poverty of many countries increases, it is impossible to control the migration movements toward the wealthy countries and these movements can become another channel for Organized Crime.

If in the peripheral areas Organized Crime represents an answer to the crisis, in the central areas it takes advantage of the convenience offered by the system: prohibition, opacity of the financial system etc.

4.3. Final proposals

If we want tackle Organized Crime successfully, we must act in many directions:

Knowledge. We need an adequate knowledge of the evolution of Organized Crime and for this aim it is necessary to found a network among various subjects: judicial offices, law enforcement agencies, parliamentary committees, research institutions etc.

International cooperation with the harmonization of legislation, procedures and law enforcement activities.

Prevention, acting on the structural causes of diffusion of Organized Crime: poverty, conveniences offered by the economy, connections with the institutions etc.

In this way the fight against Mafia and Organized Crime can become part of a global policy for democracy, co-existence and development, ensuring the satisfaction of basic needs for all human beings.


1Law September 13 1982 no. 646, art. 416 bis.
2 See the documents of the “maxiprocesso”: Tribunale di Palermo, Ufficio Istruzione processi penali, Ordinanza-sentenza contro Abbate Giovanni + 706, 1985; Tribunale di Palermo, Corte d’Assise, Sentenza contro Abbate Giovanni + 459, 1987.
3 Parlamento Italiano, Camera dei Deputati, Ministero dell’Interno, Rapporto sul fenomeno della criminalità organizzata (anno 1994), Roma 1995, p. 38.
4 Cfr. U. Santino – G. La Fiura, L’impresa mafiosa. Dall’Italia agli Stati Uniti, F. Angeli, Milano 1991, pp. 17-53.
5 U. Santino, La mafia interpretata. Dilemmi, stereotipi, paradigmi, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 1995, p. 130.
6 I. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System. Capitalist Agricolture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, New York, Academic Press Inc, 1974.
7 Cfr. U. Santino, The financial Mafia. The illegal accumulation of wealth and the financial-industrial complex, in “Contemporary Crises”, vol. 12, n. 3, September 1988, pp. 203-243.
8 On political groups see M. Weber, Economia e società, I, Comunità, Milano 1981, pp. 53-55.
9 U. Santino, La mafia come soggetto politico, Centro siciliano di documentazione “Giuseppe Impastato”, Palermo 1994.
10 L. Violante, Non è la piovra. Dodici tesi sulle mafie italiane, Einaudi, Torino 1994, pp. 92-93.
11 Parlamento Italiano, Camera dei Deputati, Ministero dell’Interno, Rapporto sul fenomeno della criminalità organizzata (anno 1994), p. 93.
12 L. Violante, op. cit., p. 123.
On the criminal groups of the Mafia type operating in many Italian regions see the reports of Ministero dell’Interno, various years.
13 Law September 13 1982 no. 646, art. 416 bis.
14 Stewart Clark, The drug problem in member States of EEC, September 1986.
15 European Parliament, Investigative Committee on the diffusion of Organized Crime connected with drug traffiking in the member States of European Community, reporter Patrick Cooney, Project of report, November 1991.
16 EMCDDA, Annual Report on the State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union 1995, Lisbon 1996.
17 I summarize the considerations of my essay La mafia sicilienne et le nouveau marchés des drogues en Europe, in A. Labrousse et A. Wallon (editors), La planète des drogues, Èditions du Seul, Paris 1993, pp. 123-143.
18 See, for instance, the international meeting “Territorial Hells – Tax Havens”, for a new international Convention on drugs, Venice, 11-13 October 1996, promoted by the Gruppo Abele and the City of Venice with the support of European Parliament.
19 See UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), Human Development Report 1996, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1996.

In J.A. Albanese, D.K. Das, A. Verma (editors), Organized Crime. World Perspectives..., Prentice-Hall, 2003, pp. 82-100.