They arrested 21 Mafiosi in my little backwater of a town last week. All of them had been very high profile players in international organised crime.
Along with the 21 arrests, the police also recovered 30 million Euros in cash, buildings, businesses, supermarkets, and other varied loot. The men had been engaged in drug trafficking, extortion, kidnap, illegal arms dealing and rigging elections.
This place is honestly a one-horse town with a tiny population. The most exciting thing that has ever happened here since the Second World War was when local boy and international movie mogul Salvatore Tornatore, who directed Cinema Paradiso, came back for the premiere of his more recent and much more hilarious film, Baaria.
Oh, that and the time some English friends of mine came to visit in February, and their kids decided to go swimming in the sea. I admit it was rather nippy, but it was honestly no colder than the average English summer; yet the locals still reminisce about that from time to time, in a blend of awestruck astonishment and quiet admiration.
So forgive me for being rather gobsmacked to find out that we had such a lot of Mafia bigshots here.
One of the men arrested was the mayor of a nearby town called Alimena, a man called Giuseppe Scrivano. He was a member of the political party called the Lega Nord, which would never get elected in Sicily unless the elections were rigged, because their main policy is to cut Sicily loose and create a new Italy without the primitive peoples of Italy’s incompetent south. Their politicians are regularly to be seen on Italian TV, railing against the Mafia of the south who are “dragging the whole country down”.
All the men arrested were major bosses, organising illegal international arms trading operations on a massive scale as well as drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking and contract killing. And they all lived within spitting distance of my own house. Yoinks!
And a right crew they looked too. Check out a small sample of the mugshots, if you dare:
When members of the Japanese Mafia mess up, they are punished by being forced to cut off one of their own fingers. The Sicilian Mafia, on the other hand, apparently punish mistakes with a ferocious eyebrow plucking.
(They don’t really. I’m just kidding about that. At least I think I am.)
Two of the men targeted for arrest were part of the Canadian branch of the Sicilian Mafia. They had been tracked and monitored all the way from Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police…
…were working very closely with the Italian Carabinieri…
It’s a good job the Mounties have their own transport, because the Carabinieri in Italy sometimes suffer setbacks like this:
The two Canadian crooks, being tracked as part of this massive police sting operation, were called Juan Ramon Paz Fernandez and Fernando Pimentel. These names immediately alert you to the fact that they were not of Italian origin. This would have made their admission to Mafia membership a controversial move, and would place them on a risky footing within the organisation. Non-Italians are very much regarded as second-tier associates within Cosa Nostra…. even as far away as Canada.
One interesting snippet that came out of the whole monitoring and sting operation, codenamed Argo, was the revelation of the Cosa Nostra membership initiation rites. It has long been known that joining the Mafia is rather like joining the Freemasons or the Moonies or maybe a US university frat society: they demand utter loyalty and have wierd joining rituals.
New initiates to the Sicilian Mafia have to do the following:
1. Prick your trigger-pulling finger with a thorn from a bitter orange tree (in case you’ve never foolishly tried to climb an orange tree, you’ll have to take it from me that these thorns are two inches long and can pierce human bones); some clans of the Mafia use a golden thorn instead
2. bleed onto a religious picture
3. set the bloody picture on fire whilst holding it in both hands
4. whilst not screaming like a girl because your fingers are getting barbecued, recite an oath of loyalty until death to the Mafia.
The police also learned, from one bugged conversation, that the new initiates who make mistakes are punished by having their legs thrashed with horsewhips. Well, the next time I see a bloke limping along with blood seeping out of his trouser legs and with savagely plucked eyerows, I shall NOT offer to help him across the road. I shall run away as fast as I can, shouting “Ha! ha! You can’t catch me! Thank goodness!”
The Canadian arm of Cosa Nostra has a massive war going on at the moment. Murders are taking place in blockbuster quantities, like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, in the struggle for new leadership. These two Spanish-sounding Canadians had decided to forge strong links with the Bagheria branch of Cosa Nostra and increase the amount of drug trafficking between Canada and Italy, in the hope of getting to the top in the Canadian power struggle.
So, how did that work out for them? Did the police manage to arrest them?
No. The mob got to them first. They were found in the local rubbish dump the day before yesterday, shot 30 times each and burnt to black crisps.
This news even worked its way up to a UK Guardian reporter in Rome yesterday. Maybe my backwater of a home town is going to be famous for something other than two little English girls shivvering in the sea!
And I wish to convey my thanks for making my town a safer place to live, both to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
and to the courageous ROS (anti-Mafia) division of the Carabinieri of Sicily.