Twenty-two arrest warrants were issued for members of Italy’s Cosa Nostra gang this week after local business owners in the town of Bagheria notified the authorities of the gang’s protection racket. Cosa Nostra was once Italy’s most influential criminal organization but has witnessed a decline due to incidents like the one in Bagheria. Police have noted an unusual rise in the level of informant activity, suggesting people have simply had enough of the gang’s strong arm tactics.
A number of the 22 suspects had already been apprehended, but police provided no information on the portion that remained. It is believed that some of the suspects are connected to Bernardo Provenzano, considered to be the last kingpin of the Sicilian mafia.
The police issued the following statement, “The investigation … shows the suffocating pressure of extortion exercised by the most feared mafia chiefs, who from 2003 to 2013, took charge of the top ranks of the mafia organization.”
Whereas the normal exchange for a business’s protection money to the mafia is a guarantee for protection and fair dealing when transacting with other businesses, a rise in the number of businesses who received nothing for their money has led to the rise in informant behavior.
The businesses that have been paying Cosa Nostra protection money ranged from gambling houses to fish markets, with monthly rates of between $1,100 and $5,500. Business owners who act against the mafia are known to be killed or have their establishment burned down.
Those who have chosen to rebel against the mafia have the support of groups like the anti-racketeering association of Addiopizzo, which provides victims with legal assistance. Salvo Caradona of Addiopizzo commented on the goal of his organization, “Many of these people have turned to us. These people can’t take it anymore, many are scared and have been overwhelmed by debt… And I must say that fear is slowly succumbing to an increased awareness of the fact that they are winning their battle against the mafia”.