91 convicts, 600 years in prison. if in Italy When major lawsuits against the mafia result in a verdict, the penalties are almost always exorbitant. As now in the proceedings against the Mafia dei pascoli, the mafia of the pastures from the hinterland of Messina in Sicily. Numbers to look at, actually. The newspapers highlight them in bold letters, the readers should understand: the state reacts, the state punishes. And that’s what he does. The only question is whether that will be enough to break up the cartels in the long term. The octopus keeps growing new arms.
The mafiosi have many helpers: lawyers, notaries, politicians, police officers
91 convicts, 600 years in prison. The spectacular judgment of the Patti tribunal is only the first instance, with two more jurisdictions to follow before it becomes final. But it hits a mafia that the general public only gradually discovers, primarily through such processes. A modern mafia that doesn’t just make its money with drug and arms dealing, with extortion and prostitution, with its usual core competencies. But also with apparently clean, legal businesses: for example with agriculture and food. Mafia 2.0, they say in Italy. There is less murder, the different clans also work together, which they never did before. They can count on an army of white collars to help them: officials in the offices, lawyers, notaries, politicians, and even the police. The money? Sometimes it comes straight from the European Union to the bank account, as this process showed.
The clans of Tortorici, a pretty town on the edge of the large and magnificent Parco dei Nebrodi, as a protected natural paradise in north-eastern Sicily is called, have long siphoned money from Europe’s agricultural budget. Millions of euros flowed every year. The subsidies had been intended for the farmers and shepherds on the Nebrodi mountains. They work on a uniquely beautiful spot on the island with its lush green meadows and waterfalls. From almost everywhere you can see the sea and Mount Etna. Physically, however, the work is particularly hard.
Often there was only one bidder for leased land
The Mafiosi acted on two fronts: First, they intimidated the peasants to get their land. They burned down their shelters, blew up their tractors, killed their livestock until the livelihoods of the farmers were destroyed and all resistance was broken. If necessary, after killing the animals, they also killed the rebellious ones themselves. There are a long line of unsolved murder cases in the park, most of them probably have them Mafia dei pascoli committed.
When leased land was put out to tender, it often happened that only one bidder came forward and was awarded the contract and paid a minimum rent. In the beginning, they made no effort to hide their identity – on the contrary: the power of the clans should work. The clans thus brought more and more areas under their control. The more leased land, the more money flowed from the agricultural fund.
In 2014, a man became president of the regional park who exposed this system and had the courage to fight it: Giuseppe Antoci, a bank branch manager. When he understood the personal fate of five farmers, how ruthless the mafia was and how it used loopholes in the law in public tenders, he introduced a new protocol. It bears his name, “Protocollo Antoci”, and is now used throughout Italy. The clans benefited from the fact that no anti-mafia certificate was required for properties with a value of less than 150,000 euros, i.e. no certificate of good conduct. And so the mafia simply took lots of plots of land for less than 150,000 euros, often the value was 149,000. If there was a larger one, they issued the certificates themselves. Antoci managed to ensure that all tenants were closely monitored.
Giuseppe Antoci took up the fight against the criminals
It was a kind of declaration of war, for which Antoci and his family are still paying dearly four years after the end of his term in office. He has to be guarded around the clock by four bodyguards, and an army jeep is parked in front of his house. In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung he once said that he wanted his old life back, that he would like to go to the beach with his daughters again, sometimes spontaneously to a pizzeria.
On May 18, 2016, she showed how much the mafia hates him. Antoci had attended a village meeting. It was getting late, 1:55 a.m. On the way home, in the back of the armored Lancia Thesis, he fell asleep immediately. Gunshots woke him up. The driver braked because there were large stones on the country road. From an ambush, two assassins then fired several bullets at the rear left tire to prevent the car from moving on. The investigators found Molotov cocktails at the crime scene: the company car was to be set on fire. But Antoci was lucky: the chief of police was also on his way home and reached the scene of the crime two minutes after the president. There was an exchange of fire, then the attackers piled up.
The attack on Antoci shocked the Italians, it had been quiet in Sicily for a long time. But as is so often the case, it didn’t take long before perfidious voices arose, claiming that Antoci might have invented everything to make himself important. An old smear pattern, it strikes many brave fighters against the mafia. 91 convicts, 600 years in prison. The boss of the Batanesi family was sentenced to 30 years in prison, that of the Bontempo Scavo family to 22 years. The two clans from Tortorici ruled over the Nebrodi, the judges found in Patti. A personal satisfaction for Antoci.
The mafia is always a little faster than the state
But will much change after the trial? Italy receives around nine percent of European agricultural subsidies, which amounted to 37.5 billion euros between 2014 and 2020. And because the EU leaves control entirely to the member states, it trusts, for example, that the Italian authorities already know who is getting the money. Well, they know better than they used to, also because databases have been merged. And thanks to the “Protocollo Antoci”. But the risk of fraud is huge.
The Mafia 2.0 is agile, always a bit faster than the state. One flew the other day Mafia dei pascoli in the central Italian region of Abruzzo: similar pattern, similar gains. The clan there cooperated with clans of the Neapolitan Camorra, the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta – and with the mafia of the willows from the Parco dei Nebrodi.