Some time ago we left the Sicilian mafia to check out some of the world’s other organised crime organisations but we’ll return to it for this post. By 1930 the Sicilian mafia had effectively been destroyed by Mussolini and the man he chose to do the job – Cesare Mori. Thousands were imprisoned, clans and families broken up and centralised law returned to Sicily.
It remained this way throughout the next 15 years or so until the end of the second world war and the defeat of Mussolini. With the collapse of his government, chaos returned to the country in the early days of American occupation, whose task it became to restore law and order. Unknown to the Americans, many of the people they chose to occupy official positions were former mafioso.
It didn’t take long for the clans and families to be put back together and once again, mafia
influence in Sicily became widespread. In 1957, two things persuaded American mafia boss Joseph Bonanno to return to Sicily. Firstly there was a blitz on drug trafficking in the United States and many mafioso were jailed. Secondly Cuba, which had also been a hub for smuggling and a haven for the mob, was overcome by Fidel Castro’s revolution. Bonanno saw this as an opportunity to organise shipments from Sicily and while there he set up the Sicilian Mafia Commission.
The Commission was Bonanno’s attempt to avoid any inter-clan rivalry for what he knew was going to become an extremely lucrative drug smuggling operation. At the meetings, bosses or their representatives would discuss any disputes and settle them in a ‘gentlemanly’ way before things got out of hand. This was the Commission’s only purpose – it did not set overarching mafia policy or discuss operational details as some have suggested.
A good indication of the scale of corruption in Sicily’s capital, Palermo during the building boom after the war is indicated by the awarding of 80% of all construction permits to just five people – none of them from large building companies. The department responsible for issuing permits had been taken over by two mafia members, Salvatore Lima and Vito Ciancimino and were awarding permits to mafia front-men.
Part Five follows…..