At the weekend I did the ironing in front of a recording of “Italy’s Bloodiest Mafia” – a documentary about the Camorra in Naples by reporter Mark Franchetti. The programme focussed on the professionalism of the Camorra, and on the bravery of those determined to stop them. One of the latter is a young law student whose mother was killed in the crossfire of a Camorra gang attack, and she is determined to become a prosecutor. Meanwhile she visits young Camorristas in prison, trying to persuade them to change their ways, and campaigns for an organisation that encourages local businesses to refuse to pay protection money and then publicises who they are so that concerned citizens can given their patronage to “clean” concerns.
When asked why this initiative matters so much, the current lead Camorra prosecutor (also a woman – very interesting, this female bias) said that the Camorra have realised that the simplest way to launder their criminal proceeds is through legitimate-seeming businesses. So in the garment district they set up textiles factories, and in the cheese-making part of town they invest in mozzarella kitchens. The benefit to them is that the demand for such products is assured, and “because cash flow is never a problem” (I’ll say – they’re earning millions of euros a week from street drug sales in northern Naples alone), they can undercut legitimate businesses every time.
One local businessman who has stood up to them is a manufacturer of mattresses. When approached for protection money, he went to the police – who advised him to pay. He did do, but filmed every transaction, eventually leading to the imprisonment of 36 Camorristas. They burnt down his factory, so he built a new one – but now he sends out his mattresses in unmarked packaging otherwise people are too frightened to buy them.