Even the Mafia is not immune to the lingering recession, according to new reports that suggest a merciless spending review is causing serious discontent in Sicily’s Cosa Nostra.
The axe, which is falling chiefly on hand-outs to junior mobsters, family members and hangers-on, has exacerbated the fall in “earnings” already taking place thanks to a police blitz on extortion rackets.
Only the big Mafia bosses will be spared the social security cuts. Those worst affected have been the relatives of jailed mobsters, prompting their wives and girlfriends to lead the backlash, Italian press reports said.
The insight into the mob’s own financial crisis has been illustrated by wiretaps of Palermo’s Noce clan, based in the centre of the Sicilian capital. This section of the Mafia was particularly hard hit last October in a series of raids organised by Palermo’s three anti-Mafia magistrates – Francesco Del Bene, Lia Sava and Gianluca De Leo – which saw 41 Mafia suspects arrested. La Repubblica says this brought Cosa Nostra “to its knees” in its Sicilian heartland.
In one of the telephone calls recorded by investigators, the wife of a recently jailed mobster is heard complaining about the financial situation to a female friend in a similar position. “I have to look after myself, I have to look after my husband and I have to look after my children,” she said. “November, December, January and then I didn’t seen anyone. It’s not right that they abandon my husband.”
Significantly, she went on to say that she intended to go right to the top and speak to clan boss Renzo Lo Nigro, who assumed the role after the October raids. Mr Lo Nigro was one of six people held this morning as a result of the surveillance.
A couple of years ago it was predicted that organised crime in Italy might prosper from the economic downturn, with the likelihood that businesses caught in the credit crunch would be forced to accept offers of finance from underworld sources.
But the new claims appear to back earlier reports that suggested many mobsters were being hit hard by the drawn-out recession. Mafia expert and author Corrado De Rosa, who has just published Mafia da Legare (Mad Mafia) with the journalist Laura Galesi, said the news of the Mafia spending cuts underlined how the mob acted as “an anti-state, alternative welfare system”. But he added the willingness of Mafia wives to speak out marked a major departure. “Twenty years ago... this would never have happened.”