Italy: New book raises fresh concern about mafia clout
Rome, 19 June (AKI) - A new book about the Italian mafia raises fresh concern about its power in the south of the country and about whether it will ever be controlled. 'Into the Heart of the Mafia - a journey through the Italian South' is written by veteran British journalist David Lane who has lived and worked in Italy since 1972.
Lane writes a damning account of the four main mafias from Sicily's Cosa Nostra, to Calabria's N'drangheta, the Napolitan Camorra and the Sacra Corona Unita in the Puglia region after travelling extensively through the south.
"The mafia is one of the huge handicaps from which the south suffers," Lane told Adnkronos International (AKI).
"One goes north and sees a very tightly industrial fabric, one goes south and sees absolutely nothing. It is an economic wasteland."
Lane has spent the past 15 years as Rome correspondent for the British weekly, The Economist, and published a book on Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi entitled 'Berlusconi's Shadow' in 2004.
For his current book the veteran journalist travelled across the south of the country talking to police, magistrates, hotel owners, teachers and many others impacted by the mafia.
In the southern region of Calabria, which is dominated by the 'Ndrangheta, the anti-mafia magistrate, Nicola Gratteri, told him how local mafia families shared control of the southern port of Gioia Tauro to aid their drug and arms trafficking business.
"We seize quintals of cocaine every year but probably only discover five percent of the total that arrives in Italy, mainly in containers by ship," he told Lane in the book.
The book covers mafia murders and extortion and exposes the vast layers of its business interests from the trafficking of arms, drugs and people, to industrial waste, medical contracts, construction and even manipulating education results.
In the book, Lane recounts the details of a court case in the Sicilian city of Messina where 33 people were found guilty of various crimes linked to the local university, including mafia intimidation and physical violence.
Lane said the outlook was depressing and offered little hope.
"What kind of hope is there for people in the south?" Lane told AKI. "How can you bring jobs to the south when infrastructure is poor and the region is so distant from markets?"
Lane had extraordinary access to dedicated magistrates in the Sicilian city of Palermo and other officials who are working to enforce the law and beat the mafia.
"I was very fortunate. I had people in Palermo who put me in touch with people in Messina who put me in touch with people in Reggio," he said.
"The thing about Italians is they are so open. I interviewed two archbishops. Would people in Britain be so helpful? I doubt it."
Lane said he wanted to write a book that would inform foreigners about the infiltration of the mafia in Italian society and the layers of inefficiency and corruption that it creates.
"I wanted to tell them about the mafia and how deeply rooted it is in the south, about people who are fighting the mafia, not just magistrates and policemen, ordinary people and local politicians," he said.
"There are people who believe the south can be changed and stay there and fight."
Sadly Giovanni Marra, the elderly archbishop of Messina, is one of the most pessimistic in the book.
"It's an old sickness with no cure, or so it seems," he told Lane. "The sickness continues despite the church's work and the work of schools and institutions."
In his book Lane also covered the overlapping relationship between the mafia and Italy's political elite citing former prime minister Giulio Andreotti and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Giulio Andreotti, seven-times prime minister and life senator, was acquitted of complicity with the mafia but found to have been engaged in criminal association until 1980.
"What kind of country is it? He was someone who associated with the mafia and benefited from it," said Lane. "He was part of a criminal conspiracy."
Five years ago prime minister Silvio Berlusconi one of the richest men in Italy with a vast media and business empire, refused to respond to Sicilian prosecutors who were probing possible links between his investments and the Mafia in the late 1970s and 1980s.
"When Berlusconi got onto the political pitch he weakened a determined battle against the mafia and against corruption," Lane said.