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Cablegate: Sicilian Mafia Reeling From Police and Business Actions

VZCZCXRO5383
RR RUEHFL RUEHNP
DE RUEHNP #0129/01 3401509
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061509Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL NAPLES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6160
INFO RHMFIUU/DIR FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0380
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN 0073
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE 0060
RHMFIUU/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RHMFIUU/COMSERVFORSIXTHFLT
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 0887

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAPLES 000129

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCRM IT
SUBJECT: SICILIAN MAFIA REELING FROM POLICE AND BUSINESS ACTIONS

Sensitive but unclassified - handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: A series of law enforcement successes in
Sicily, including the arrest of a major mafia boss in November
and a raid that netted 70 suspects on December 4, has the Cosa
Nostra reeling. Business owners have increasingly banded
together, refusing to pay the protection money that has
traditionally been a major source of mafia income. The success
in combating organized crime in Sicily stands in stark contrast
to the general lack thereof in other regions of southern Italy.
End summary.

2. (U) A string of law enforcement successes, combined with a
rebellion by businesses against the payment of protection money,
has the Cosa Nostra on the defensive. The latest round of
government victories started with the November 5 arrest near
Palermo of powerful Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo and three of
his associates. Police believed that Lo Piccolo had taken over
the top post in the Cosa Nostra after the April 2006 arrest of
Bernardo Provenzano, "the boss of all bosses." The police and
Carabinieri followed up with a joint raid on December 3 on the
home in Gela (a heavily mafia-influenced town on the island's
southern coast) of another local boss, Daniele Emmanuello.
Emmanuello, wanted for murder and racketeering, was shot to
death by police as he tried to flee. The next day, the
Carabinieri detained 70 people, including alleged mob boss
Vincenzo Santapaola, in Catania. Santapaola's father,
Benedetto, is serving a life sentence and is considered one of
the Sicilian mafia's most feared leaders.

3. (U) Business owners have been emboldened by the continuing
string of law enforcement victories, with more and more
reportedly refusing to pay extortion money (known in Italian
slang as the "pizzo"), particularly since Provenzano's arrest.
According to the recent annual report issued by the National
Traders Association (Conferescenti), up to 80 percent of
businesses in Palermo and Catania paid protection money in the
past year, and the cost of extortion is higher in Sicily than
any other part of the country. Several anti-racket associations
have been formed, reportedly with good results. The most
prominent is "Addio pizzo" ("Goodbye, pizzo"), formed in 2004,
which counts 210 traders and entrepreneurs as members and over
9,000 consumers committed to buy only at shops belonging to the
"pizzo-free" list. Palermo police and the prefect have agreed
to discreetly look after the member shops. "Addio pizzo" has
organized programs in more than 90 schools and educational
institutes, with the participation of prosecutors and police,
and also conducted a "pizzo-free" festival in one of Palermo's
main plazas in May 2006. (One of the association's leaders has
been selected for a State Department International Visitor
program in 2008, which will focus on awakening public opinion to
rule of law and supporting NGOs who fight organized crime.)

4. (U) In September of this year, the Sicilian branch of the
industrialists' federation (Confindustria) voted unanimously to
expel any of its members who continue to pay the Mafia's tax.
The vote came in support of Andrea Vecchio, a well-known
construction company owner who told the Cosa Nostra he would no
longer pay. Since taking this bold decision, he has received
four death threats and two of his building sites have been
sabotaged. Vecchio and his family are now living under police
protection.

5. (U) On November 11, forty Sicilian business owners launched
a new "anti-pizzo" association to assist entrepreneurs who
refuse to pay extortion money. The group is called "Libero
Futuro," which translates "Free Future," but also pays homage to
Libero Grassi, a Sicilian businessman who was murdered in 1991
for refusing to pay the "pizzo." In response to the
organization's founding, Palermo mayor Diego Cammarata promised
50,000 euros to assist merchants who have been victims of
extortion. The association's inauguration was attended by
national political leaders; in fact, the auditorium was packed,
whereas when a similar launch was attempted two years ago, only
around 30 people showed up.

6. (U) During the night of November 26, the offices of
Confindustria in the central Sicilian city of Caltanissetta were
broken into, and computer disks containing confidential details
of business owners backing a campaign against the payment of
protection money were stolen. Confindustria leaders immediately
blamed the Mafia and declared that they would not be intimidated
by the act.

7. (SBU) Comment: The stunning law enforcement successes and a

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vocal public campaign against extortion have left the Cosa
Nostra with its back to the wall. Most of the organization's
top-level bosses have been captured, but national anti-Mafia
prosecutor Piero Grasso has stated that he has no intention of
declaring the war over. According to Grasso, total victory
requires a "cultural revolution," in addition to arrests.
Unfortunately, the success in Sicily stands in stark contrast to
the rest of southern Italy, where significantly less progress
has been made in fighting the Camorra in Campania and the
'Ndrangheta in Calabria (although there has been good success
combating the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia). Our local contacts
in the anti-mafia prosecutor's office tell us that it is hard to
apply the Sicilian model to these regions because these other
groups consist of clans, many of which compete with each other,
while the Cosa Nostra has more of a pyramid structure.
Nonetheless, the disparity between the success in combating the
Sicilian mafia and the lack thereof elsewhere is striking.
HALLIBURTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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