When Mafia bosses dine, it can only mean trouble... A decapitated Cosa Nostra is reorganising itself – over banquets

The Sicilian clans are trying to regroup and strengthen the organisation – and enjoy themselves at the same time

Rome

First the brash young men arrive in polo shirts and sunglasses, kissing and embracing each other. Then the banquet begins with oysters and Dom Perignon and ends, usually, with an arrest, a disappearance or a murder.

It sounds like a scene from Goodfellas or The Sopranos. But two years of video surveillance by Sicilian law enforcement agencies shows how the sons of jailed Cosa Nostra leaders are trying to reform "la Cupola" – the regular gathering of Mafia families from across Sicily to discuss business plans. It is not clear to what extent the weakened crime syndicate is benefiting, or whether the Mafia's young guns are just playing at being gangsters.

With Cosa Nostra weakened by a succession of arrests, the growth of rival crime syndicates and the lack of a boss of bosses of the stature of Bernardo Provenzano or Toto Riina, the clans are trying to regroup and strengthen the organisation – and enjoy themselves at the same time.

"It's no longer about small extortion rackets. The new Godfathers of Palermo, young and ambitious, need to see each other in order to reorganise Cosa Nostra, and for some time they've been organising meetings in the best restaurants in Palermo," said Salvo Palazzolo, in a report for La Repubblica. Carabinieri have filmed about 20 such gatherings in the past two years.

"Food is considered a measure of their power and prestige. Around the table there are declarations of war, pacts are made, alliances agreed upon and murders are decided," added the journalist Attilio Bolzoni.

Victims might even be among those feasting on the lobster. In 2011, at Palermo's swanky Villa Pensabene restaurant, the veteran mobster Giuseppe Calascibetta rolled up, arm in arm with young Cosa Nostra figures, for a Cupola feast. In September that year he was shot dead.

The Cupola was first mentioned during the judicial probe into the first Mafia war, the bloody conflict between Palermo families that saw 63 murders between 1961 and 1963.

But the Cupola or commission was not officially recognised by the courts until the maxi-trial in 1986-7 of Sicilian Mafia members. This then allowed the anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone to portray Cosa Nostra as a hierarchical organisation governed by the Cupola. As a result he was able to prosecute senior bosses for crimes committed by their underlings.

Many of the older figures in Cosa Nostra have since been jailed. After the bloody 1980s and 1990s, which culminated with bomb attacks and the murder of anti-Mafia magistrates, including Falcone, the crime syndicate also suffered a huge backlash.

Toto Riina, the violent head of the Mafia who orchestrated the brief war on the state, was captured in 1993. His successor as the boss of bosses, Bernardo Provenzano, sought to lower the crime syndicate's profile by concentrating on infiltrating state institutions and on creaming off money from public construction contracts.

Following Provenzano's capture in 2006 and the arrest of his successor Salvatore lo Piccolo a year later, the nearest Cosa Nostra currently has to a "boss of bosses" is Matteo Messina Denaro. But the net appears to be closing in on him, too.

Another expert on organised crime in Italy, Corrado de Rosa said: "I don't think the bosses who are sitting at the tables in Palermo in the past few months are just playing. Certainly they're not as powerful as they once were, and they like to show off, but especially now that Matteo Messina Denaro is being hunted by the state and his capture is getting closer, it is not surprising that they are seeking to reorganise themselves."

He added that with the uncertain political climate in Italy, it is to be expected that the clans of Cosa Nostra will seek to work together more closely.

The Mafia is thought to have made countless millions by selling votes to crooked politicians in Sicily.

The continued threat posed by Cosa Nostra was underlined in December when the Palermo magistrate Nino di Matteo had his protection stepped up after death threats from the imprisoned former "boss of bosses", Riina. One source suggested that explosives had been organised for an assassination attempt.

News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
news

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game