Secrets of who pays what to Sicilian Mafia revealed for first time

An accounts book has fallen into the hands of the Sicilian police that reveals for the first time the rules and regulations which dictate who must pay pizzo - protection money - to the Mafia, how much they must pay, and who is exempt.

The ledger, which details illegal protection payments for the Vucciria area of Palermo, provides the most detailed picture yet of how the Mafia continues to control commercial activity in the Sicilian capital, more than 10 years after it gave up the gun.

The discovery comes amid renewed controversy over the power and importance of the Mafia stirred up by a television documentary at the weekend which claimed that 80 per cent of Sicilian businesses pay pizzo.

The governor of the island, Salvatore Cuffaro, himself under investigation for Mafia connections, sent a letter of protest about the programme to the Italian head of state, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and demanded a special meeting of the "vigilance committee" of RAI, the Italian state broadcaster.

"To say that, in today's Sicily, 80 per cent of businessmen must pay pizzo or else, and that those who refuse are forced to live under armed guard, is false," he said. "This causes huge damage to our image precisely at the moment when tens of big entrepreneurs from the north are arriving to invest in the island ... Only 5 to 10 per cent [of shopkeepers] pay pizzo. If the magistrates say otherwise, I don't believe them."

But Mr Cuffaro may find it harder to refute the line-by-line, street-by-street evidence of Mafia extortion contained in the accounts book confiscated from a small-time mobster arrested recently in Palermo.

Leaked to La Repubblica newspaper, the book reveals that the Mafia operates a graded tariff, with small shops paying €500 (£350) to €1000 per quarter, upmarket shops such as jewellers paying €2,500 to €3,000 and big shops paying €5,000.

Shopkeepers with family members in prison are exempt, as are those with relatives in the police force and those who suffer a bereavement, who are let off a single quarterly payment. New shops setting up in the area are obliged to make a hefty downpayment. Mafiosi coming into the area from outside have to pay 3 per cent of their take to the local bosses.

The quarterly payment is collected by young mobsters with nice manners who usually have no criminal record. Most shopkeepers, claims La Repubblica, are happy to pay up.The fact that the jewellers of Palermo's Via Giovanni Meli don't need to lock their doors is thanks to the pizzo. "In Giovanni Meli it is forbidden to rob, forbidden to harass. The 30-odd jewellers along the street all have their doors open."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor