Friday, Feb. 10, 2012
On Feb. 10, 1986, the trial of 474 accused members of Sicily’s Mafia opens in Palermo, Italy. Security is tight as the Italian government takes on the criminal organization on an unprecedented scale, providing a guard around the clock to judges, jury, and prosecutors. The trial is held in a hall of concrete, steel, and bullet-proof glass next to an 18th century prison where a 2,000-man security force is deployed to guard the buildings and participants in the trial. The defendants are charged with over 120 murders, drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, and other such activities. The case is primarily based on the testimony of Mafia boss turned informant, Tommaso Buscetta, one of the first of the Sicilian Mafia members to ever become an informant. By the time the trial concludes on Dec. 16, 1987, 360 of the defendants are convicted, 119 of those are convicted in absentia. The trial helps bring down alliances between Sicilian and American families trafficking drugs into the United States and Canada.
A study commissioned by the Italian government and released in 2009 estimates as many as 13 million Italians live in areas where the Mafia clans have influence over and affect everyday life. The study identified 610 urban and rural districts with active clans in Italy’s south. The highest concentration of people living under the Mafia was found in Sicily and Naples. The other two centers of mob activity are Calabria and Puglia. In some areas, as many as 80 percent of shops allegedly pay protection money, starting at about 500 euros per month (about $664). Giuseppe Pisanu, who directs the government’s anti-Mafia commission, said the Italian Mafia is “silently prospering, moving on from spectacular crimes and massacres to business and politics, with a prudent dose of intimidation and violence in a bid to take over the fundamental role of the state,” reported The Guardian.