Dag­gers, pis­tols and blood bonds: how the Mafia works

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A strict moral code, ar­chaic ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­monies and… Uxbridge? When a Mafia crim­i­nal known as “The Pro­fes­sor” was dis­cov­ered liv­ing in a West London sub­urb, his hum­drum semi-de­tached house seemed an odd fit for a no­to­ri­ous Cosa Nos­tra boss, ac­cord­ing to the Daily Tele­graph.

Domenico Ran­cadore, who was a mem­ber of the Si­cil­ian Mafia Cosa Nos­tra from 1987 to 1995, has been con­victed of Mafia as­so­ci­a­tion and ex­tor­tion.

Though he fought his first ex­tra­di­tion at­tempt on hu­man rights grounds, the for­mer fugi­tive is now wait­ing to hear whether he’ll be sent to Italy for a seven-year sen­tence.

But does the crim­i­nal group he be­longed to de­serve its chill­ing rep­u­ta­tion? And how does The God­fa­ther in cin­ema mea­sure up to real life as a mafia god­fa­ther?

The Si­cil­ian Mafia is 150 years old and has his­tor­i­cally seen sev­eral hun­dred mur­ders per year. In 1992, all Ital­ian Mafias were re­spon­si­ble for more than 300 mur­ders, though this fell by 80% be­tween 1992 and 2012 - down to 70 re­ported mafi­are­lated homi­cides in 2012. And in the last few years, Cosa Nos­tra’s num­ber of mem­bers has dropped from 5,000 to 3,500.

The Mafia is still linked to drug trade but make their liv­ing from lu­cra­tive ex­tor­tion rack­ets and its po­lit­i­cal links, but their power has faded in re­cent years as lo­cal busi­nesses take a stand against the con­stant ex­tor­tion.

But while the in­come and po­lit­i­cal power of the Si­cil­ian mafia varies, the group is known for its rigid hi­er­ar­chies, or­gan­i­sa­tion and strong sense of tra­di­tion. Re­gard­less of the strength of the mafia, there are some cus­toms that never die.

Once a Mafia re­cruit has proved him­self a re­li­able crim­i­nal, they join the or­gan­i­sa­tion through a strict ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony.

Although the Mafia refers to it­self as a “fam­ily”, there are very few blood ties. In­stead, po­lit­i­cal sta­tus within the or­gan­i­sa­tion is volatile and con­stantly sub­ject to threat.

The Mafia are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with food, and are known for the love of big meals and Ital­ian din­ing. But, the Mafia are not friends of good food and agri­cul­ture, dam­ag­ing Italy’s food pro­duc­tion – poi­son­ing the land with car­cino­genic waste – as Ital­ians pay higher food prices be­cause of mafia in­fil­tra­tion of the agri­cul­tural econ­omy.

Cosa Nos­tra mem­bers can be very re­li­gious and have strong links his­tor­i­cal links to Catholi­cism. Mafia bosses have tra­di­tion­ally en­joyed the au­thor­ity be­stowed by re­li­gion – they make sure to walk along­side the priest in lo­cal re­li­gious pro­ces­sions and sit in the front row of the church.

In 2007, seized mafia doc­u­ments found that mem­bers of Casa Nos­tra have strict rules about punc­tu­al­ity and lust. Here are the group’s ten com­mand­ments: 1. No one can present him­self di­rectly to another of our friends. There must be a third per­son to do it. 2. Never look at the wives of friends. 3. Never be seen with cops. 4. Don’t go to pubs and clubs. 5. Al­ways be­ing avail­able for Cosa Nos­tra is a duty - even if your wife’s about to give birth. 6. Ap­point­ments must ab­so­lutely be re­spected. 7. Wives must be treated with re­spect. 8. When asked for any in­for­ma­tion, the an­swer must be the truth. 9. Money can­not be ap­pro­pri­ated other fam­i­lies. 10. Peo­ple who can’t be part of Cosa Nos­tra: any­one who has a close rel­a­tive in the po­lice, any­one with a two-tim­ing rel­a­tive in the fam­ily, any­one who be­haves badly and doesn’t hold to moral val­ues.

The Mafia has shown signs of adapt­ing to mod­ern life, and re­ports sug­gest that the crim­i­nal gang has even in­fil­trated re­new­able en­ergy busi­nesses.

There’s no doubt that Si­cily is on the right path to fight the Mafia and the past two decades has seen Cosa Nos­tra’s in­flu­ence fade.

But the group has a se­cre­tive and rigid or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture that will take gen­er­a­tions to break, and his­to­ri­ans warn that the story of the Mafia does not progress smoothly.

if it be­longs to oth­ers or to

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