Five ways to fight the mafia

Fearful of losing an uphill battle against the Italian mafia despite a ferocious 25-year fight, key figures in Italy's judiciary have called for anti-mafia hunters to think outside the box.

Five ways to fight the mafia
Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone has urged the government not to change the law on the mafia. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The legislation in place is harsh but effective — the problem is a “mafia culture” which has infected society, they say.

Here are five suggestions for winning the war:

Make ordinary citizens heroes

Pier Paolo Farina, a young sociologist and founder of the Wikimafia news site, said “all the mafia fight needs is for everyone to be aware of the issue and do their jobs,” from minor officials to political leaders.

“We no longer need heroes but citizens who do their duty and respect the laws because they are aware of the value of legality,” said Rosy Bindi, the head of parliament's anti-mafia committee.

Combat poverty

The mafia thrives by stepping in where the state is failing, offering security, employment, housing and even rubbish collection. New recruits in poor areas often feel a life in crime would give them a future the state cannot.

“As long as there is no Marshall Plan for the (poor) south,” there will be room for organised crime, Palermo prosecutor Roberto Scarpinato said.

Take the fight abroad

Italy's mafias have business ties everywhere there is a strong expat presence — from European countries to North and South America and Australia.

Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said Italy must push for greater international coordination and draw up more bilateral agreements. “We signed one with Colombia, but you can not imagine what the 'Ndrangheta is doing in Peru.”

Rally the troops

Pietro Grasso, a longtime anti-mafia magistrate, called on Italy to draw on the network of anti-organised crime groups that have been valiantly drumming up resistance for the past 25 years and “which show that another way is possible”.

'Don't change laws'

“I would be grateful if this parliament and the next did not change the law on the mafia,” Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone told a major two-day conference on the fight against organised crime in Milan.

Prosecutors up and down the country fighting the 'Ndrangheta (based in Calabria in Italy's deep south), the Camorra (Naples), Cosa Nostra (Sicily) and Sacra Corona Unita (Puglia), say each tweak to the law slows their work, he said.

By Fanny Carrier


New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”