The remarkable declaration was contained in a letter received from an unspecified number of Camorra criminals 'in prison and in hiding' on Wednesday by Alfredo Greco, the chief anti-Mafia prosecutor of Salerno, south of Naples. In it they declared 'there has been enough bloodshed, enough vendettas . . . we want to stop this wrong life'.
To show they were in earnest they attached a parking slip from a garage just opposite the prosecutors' office.
The car it referred to, a green Fiat Tipo, was found to contain 12 hand grenades, two machine-guns, some sawn-off shotguns, a rifle with telescopic sights, pistols, ammunition, bullet-proof jackets and a flashing blue light of the type used on police cars.
The Camorristi are making conditions, however. They are demanding, among other things, rapid trials - a rare event in Italy - the abolition of life jail sentences and an end to specially tough prison conditions for particularly dangerous criminals. They are also insisting that they are prepared to confess their own crimes but not inform about their comrades in crime.
An announcement that the Camorra, or at least part of it, was about to throw in the sponge was made 10 days ago, amid widespread disbelief, by the bishop of Acerra, near Salerno, Mgr Antonio Riboldi. He said for three months he and Don Elvio Damoli, a priest who worked among Camorra circles, had been having talks with a unnamed man representing the criminals.
'It is the first, big signal,' he said delightedly after the letter's contents were announced. 'There is a great split inside the Camorra. They are giving themselves up.'
The authorities reacted cautiously and ruled out any bargaining. 'The judiciary cannot make deals with organised crime,' Mr Greco said. The Naples magistrates pointed out that there was already a law giving immunity and state protection to pentiti who gave themselves up and told all they knew. Giovanni Conso, the Justice Minister, pointed out that in any case the government had limited powers until after the March elections and is not in a position to change the laws.
The move indicates that the Camorra is in serious difficulties now that the state is seriously cracking down on Italy's various mafias. Many members have been rounded up; its two top bosses, Raffaele Cutolo and Carmine Alfieri, are in jail; and Pasquale Galasso, its financial brain, is now a pentito and has made devastating disclosures.
The Naples politicians believed to have been its accomplices and protectors have fallen and are under investigation themselves. It seems to have been no accident that the letter was passed to Mr Greco by a lawyer acting for Pasquale Loreto, the biggest boss still in hiding.Reuse content