Mafia refers to an organized crime group known for engaging in illegal activities. While the term may also encompass other groups, it primarily originated in Sicily to describe the Sicilian mafia. Today, it is prevalent globally and used loosely to describe criminal organizations. Despite the uncertainty surrounding its etymology, we will dive into the fascinating history and facts of the Italian mafia throughout the centuries in this post.
#1 The mafia code of Honor
Every region has its own mafia, with its own set of rules that may seem absurd but are taken very seriously. These guidelines are only known through “repentants” or documents confiscated during investigations. Each mafia family has its own values and beliefs regarding the boss, women, and family. Salvatore Lo Piccolo created a 10-point constitution, referred to as a decalogue. The guidelines include presenting oneself only through a third party, not looking at the wives of friends, no deals with cops, avoiding taverns and clubs, being available at all times, respecting appointments, respecting your wife, and conducting oneself with dignity.
#2 Al Capone’s earnings were about $1.3 billion
Did you know that at the height of his criminal empire, Al Capone was earning a jaw-dropping $1.3 billion in today’s dollars? That’s right – in the late 1920s and early ’30s, the infamous mafia boss was raking in a whopping $105 million per year. However, his operation was far from cheap to run. Nearly a third of his earnings went to pay off a slew of individuals, including other gangsters, politicians, judges, and even police officers, to keep his enterprise afloat.
#3 The Sopranos
“The Sopranos” is a highly acclaimed American crime drama series created by David Chase, ranked #3 out of 2199 on “The Greatest TV Shows of All Time” list. The plot revolves around Tony Soprano, a man who struggles to balance his family life with his involvement in the mafia and criminal activities. Premiering in 1999, the show’s six seasons were so realistic that the FBI became interested in its scripts, suspecting that someone on the team had connections to the mafia. Discover the riveting story of Tony Soprano in this must-watch series.
#4 Lucky Luciano helped the US
Interesting fact: During WWII, the American mafia aided the Allied forces. Mob boss Lucky Luciano was granted freedom from prison in exchange for his assistance. As part of the deal, he agreed to return to Italy. In 1942, when a troop carrier ship caught fire in Manhattan harbor, the Navy suspected sabotage from the mafia-controlled docks. They turned to imprisoned mafia member Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano, who promised to report any suspicious activity and prevent dock worker strikes. This led to Luciano’s commuted prison sentence and deportation.
#5 Trial of Mafiosi
Discover the story of the incredible courtroom built within a bunker in Palermo by the Italians to bring the Mafia to justice. Over the course of an intense 6-year trial, 475 mafiosi were prosecuted after countless years of violence. However, the trial was not without its consequences – Giovanni Falcone, a key prosecutor, was soon after assassinated. The aftermath of this “maxiprocesso” brought to light shocking negotiations between the state and the Mafia in an effort to achieve a peaceful coexistence and reduce the number of murders.
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#6 The godfather did not use the word mafia
Did you know that the iconic film The Godfather, released in 1972, deliberately avoids using the terms ‘mafia’ or ‘La Cosa Nostra’? This was due to a deal struck between the film’s producers and the real-life mafia, who were represented by Joe Colombo Sr. and Anthony. Their lobbying through the Italian-American Civil Rights League made the producers agree not to use these terms, fearing repercussions such as labor strikes, missing equipment, or cast members. Now mafia movies are more frank and straightforward, but then the producers had reason to be afraid of the mafia.
#7 The FBI recruited members of the clan for torture
Did you know that the FBI turned to a notorious mafia enforcer for help in solving the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi? In the 1960s, Gregory Scarpa, a hitman for the Colombo crime family, kidnapped a member of the Ku Klux Klan and used unconventional interrogation methods to force him to reveal the location where the bodies were buried. Scarpa claimed he was recruited by the FBI to aid in the investigation. This shocking event sheds light on the unorthodox tactics law enforcement sometimes takes in solving high-profile cases.
#8 Nuclear waste
Did you know that Italy is also referred to as “ecomafia” due to its issues with illegal waste trafficking? The mafia has been known to bury nuclear waste in the southern part of Italy, and the “ndrangheta” sank ships filled with toxic waste off the coast of Somalia in the 80s and 90s. Sadly, Italy remains a hub for illegal waste trafficking, with both toxic and non-toxic waste being buried along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian routes. This alarming trend must be addressed to protect our environment and public health.
#9 The Capaci massacre
In 1992, Judge Giovanni Falcone and his wife Francesca were tragically killed in a bombing that shocked Italy. The attack involved a massive 500 kg bomb containing TNT, RDX, and ammonium nitrate, which was detonated as Falcone’s convoy made its way along the A29 motorway near Capaci. The explosion not only claimed the lives of the judge and his wife but also killed their escort.
The Mafia is a complex criminal organization with members that span the globe. From their early beginnings in Sicily to their modern-day operations in Italy, the US, and beyond, the mafia has had a long and complicated history. From assassinations to extortion, they have been involved with some of the most infamous crimes in history. Their way of life excites the imagination, which is why so many films are based on the life of a mafia. On the other hand, it’s quite interesting to watch everything in decades. These facts should help give you a better idea of mafia life in Italy.
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