The permanent war
of the Neapolitan camorra
The camorra is the flower of Campania which poisons and suffocates. The investigation of Feo, a long-time expert of camorrist affairs and gifted with a keen sensitivity for the ‘things of Campane’, offers observations and reflections on mafia dynamics over recent years, also through the shadows which move in the background and weave subtle and ambiguous intrigues. Between the lines, we can read a call for a public re-awakening, a teasing reproach to the stereotype analysts, and a desire to understand the criminal scenario for a future which is not just hopeful.
A gangster phenomenon, like powder…. dust, divided into innumerable tiny particles, subtle, cunning: heaving and surging and from time to time, producing the unsettling conditions which arise between the old and new clans, but ambitious, with business and mafia logic.
It is a reading undersigned by the Anti-mafia Parliamentary Commission in the majority report and it is the interpretive key of also many accredited historians and sociologists.
Yet, it is not enough. Perhaps it is a lens which does not allow one to see many nuances, sometimes even salient passages, decisive for the comprehension of the phenomenon.
One would say that also the Neapolitan Magistracy and the investigators deliver an image of this type, at the end of their inquiries or of ample reconstructions of the balances between clans, like the one delivered in 2004, by the Central Direction of the Criminal Police, on the security in Naples: but investigators and magistrates have the duty to furnish in the times provided for by the instantaneous law of the crimes, well define facts and “particulars”, insofar as it can concern chains of crimes ascribable to one single machination. Who can and must “delve deep” has, on the contrary, the obligation to ask himself questions: imagining that the crime and the dynamics of the clans are a sort of scene of the crime, in which not always all the elements are identifiable with reagents and prominent classical techniques and on which “actors” appear who do not always leave evident traces.
How can one think –getting down to basics – that the existence of centuries-old criminal organizations, and in recent times, at least 50 years of certain and continuing evolution of the criminality on the territory; of contact, even co-existence with criminal phenomena, mafia from other regions, is so lacking in complexity to explain away, still, conflicts with multiple deaths like that of Scampia, only according to logic, so to speak, of ‘pack clashes’ …., primordial…etc. Naturally, not that the gangster nature does not exist in the camorra, or is of little importance: on the contrary, for many aspects, it is certainly a characteristic of this criminal phenomenon.
But, it must be noted that interpretive reconstructions can be formed and even deformed when journalistic news and evaluations are not able to investigate thoroughly, free from the din of pistol shots. Probably this happened also in the reading of the “war of Scampia”.
There were more than 50 crimes connected to the clash between the Di Lauro clan and the so-called “separatists”. Executions, transverse vendettas; among the victims were fiancÚs, friends, relations, mothers of members of two clans. How can the murder of twenty-two year old Gelsomina Verde, be forgotten, kidnapped, tortured and killed with two pistol shots. They wanted her to reveal the hiding place of her boy-friend, one of the separatists.
And the ambush of Giulio Ruggiero, beheaded and burned. And the trap and execution of Carmela Attrice, mother of one of the separatists. The killings, which terminated in May, 2005, had begun at the beginning of the previous year, after Cosimo Di Lauro had accused one of the deputies of the clan, Raffaele Amato, of having pocketed a huge sum of money from the sale of drugs. According to collaborators of justice( the ‘reformed’), Amato left Italy to escape the death sentence which had been decided by the sons of Paolo Di Lauro.
When Amato returns from Spain, the base of his drug trafficking affairs, the feud begins. Amato, for the Di Lauro family, is not only someone who escaped with stolen money, he had, in fact, set up a regular revolt – the ‘reformed’ say – against the new organization that the sons of “Ciruzzo or the millionaire” were attempting to give to the clan. The rebels, up to that moment, had monopolized the drug trafficking business in the Di Lauro clan and now saw themselves substituted by new small-fry.
The explanations, interceptions and accounts of state witnesses help, but only up to a certain point.
Investigators of proven experience sustain that what was important in sparking off the Scampia conflict was not only the decision tied to the sub-division of the profits and of the method of distribution of the drugs, but also the imbalance created within the Di Lauro clan. Imbalance of charisma, of leadership, of experience, between who was, at a certain point, in command of the band, the sons of Paolo Di Lauro and the deputies, who possessed decidedly more important criminal pedigrees.
But this reading makes, rightly so, reference to the episodes and to contexts referring directly to the crime facts, which are – and must be – during the process of an investigation, for the sole attention of the investigators. But there are also other things that should be observed as well. Information and reconstructions go over the history of the Boss of the camorra, Paolo Di Lauro – who struck the imagination of many by his nickname “Ciruzzo or millionaire” - a career which started in the lower ranks of the New Family, in the shadow of and dependent on the protagonists of the war with Cutolo.
Then, during the conflict against the New Camorra, he meets much more important underworld characters, starting from Gennaro Licciardi, Ciro Mariano of the Spanish quarters, Giuseppe Lo Russo of Secondigliano, Dante D’Alessandro of Castellammare. He will always remain close to D’Alessandro, but will also make solid ties with the Nuvoletta(s) and will embark in the flourishing business affairs of the bosses of the Alliance of Secondigliano.
Someone among the investigators puts Paolo Di Lauro on the same level as D’Alessandro, as the Nuvoletta(s), the Licciardi(s), but perhaps, he is attributed a level which is a little too high.
He has grown, and a lot, Paolo Di Lauro, but who knows if up to this point. He knows how to be reserved, he doesn’t use the telephone, he’s ruthless, but knows how to mediate. Certainly, he’s the Boss of trawlers of dope pushers.
A clan with crowds of “labourers” and the availability of rivers of money, a son, Vincenzo, to whom the more important jobs are delegated, others less reliable, probably the cause of the instability which started the war…..finished? It is thought (if, in fact, it is finished) that it was due only to the intervention of the same Paolo Di Lauro, gifted with diplomacy and a capacity of holding together old and new figures of the criminal scene…., but only after 50 dead and a year and a half of shoot-outs.
It is certain that if there had been an intervention by Di Lauro, it arrived only after the ‘separatists’ had ended up, in great number, at the cemetery or in gaol, after an infinite succession of deaths, after the investigators and magistracy had begun to deliver some really heavy blows.
How is it possible that Paolo Di Lauro – arrested in Naples in September, 2005, by the Ros Carabinieri after three years of being in hiding, and even months before, could not have made his voice heard and his will obeyed by his men who were directing this gang warfare – why did he intervene so late? Had he lost control of the situation? Or did he want the war, for very different reasons than money or organizational choices?
And might the Di Lauri(s) and the same Amato be part of a much bigger game?
Alliance? No, a family
What was declared as the “end of the feud” arrived after countless months in which the big clans of the territory, in the quarter in which the war was taking place, seemed to be strangely absent, almost as if they were not concerned with what was happening and of the damage being done to the business affairs of everyone. Was it possible? A question which concerns, above all, what is defined as the Alliance of Secondigliano, a camorrist union, which only recently, has overcome a difficult period, thanks to the “beneficial effects” determined by the absence in hiding of the Boss, Edoardo Contini and also of Vincenzo Licciardi.
The two bosses, in the absence of Francesco Mallardo, historic ‘padrino’ of Giugliano, returned to prison in 2003, had taken back the leadership of a coalition which included the clans: “Marfella” (of Pianura), “D’Ausilio” (of Bagnoli), “Aprea-Cuccaro-Alberto” (of Barra), “Lepre” (of Cavone-Montesanto), “De Luca Bossa” (of rione De Gasperi) and “Caiazzo” (of Vomero).
The Licciardi-Contini duet, already able to control the extortion racket, the traffic and retail commerce of drugs, and the management of the clandestine betting on different types of sporting activities in the major part of the city of Naples, conditioning the activities carried out also in other areas of the province, utilized the enormous financial resources acquired by the management of these illegal sectors with the logic of big business, to then arrive at the direct or indirect control of manufacturing and laboratory societies for the production of leather clothing articles, false fashion house labels, and then on to distribution on a vast scale in many parts of the world.
They established agreements on several continents, enabling them to drain an enormous quantity of money, an immense amount for the circuit of the organization and to finance the activities in course, and a part to lay their hands on new lucrative business.
Investigations have demonstrated that this criminal formation manages it affairs through organizational models typical of the industrial holding. In 2004, twenty-five commercial companies were seized, which dealt in the wholesale of clothing and electric utensils, 60 properties in Naples and in other communities of the hinterland and 60 bank accounts. Four years previously, other commercial activities to the value of 100 billion old lire, had been seized.
Investments in the clothing, building and decorating sectors, in society for shares and commercial centres were seized. It came out that that there were improper dealings between the economic sector of the Alliance and bank officials, employees of the Value Added Tax office and lawyers. It also came out that the societies of the organized mafia involved in the clothing sector were doing business in Russia as well.
The Alliance had been able to design big business according to an original model, which, however, comes from far-away. It is sufficient to think of what the Nuvoletta and Galasso families have been able to do, to cite just two.
To the personage of Francesco Mallardo, who comes from a family of solid criminal tradition, a ferocious exterminator of ‘cutoliani’ (anything or person related to the mafia Boss, Cutolo) was first attributed “merely” a solid tie with the camorra Boss, Gennaro Licciardi (nicknamed ‘the monkey’, died in ’94 – due to anti-cutoliani militancy) and then he was said to be a relative of Contini and Bosti.
Acquired family ties for having married three sisters, Anna, Maria and Rita Aieta, which tied Mallardo also to Gennaro Licciardi – also this last had married one of the Aieta sisters, the fourth. So, Alliance or “family”, let us see, that of Secondigliano? We are in favour of second reading.
One single criminal organization much more similar to a family of the Calabrian mafia than to the same Sicilian mafia, where the glue is constituted by intricate family ties which go much further than the four marriages to the Aieta sisters.
A family that has made alliances and has fought a hard battle with other Neapolitan criminal organizations for the control of the east area of the city and of the illegal strategic business, but also business on a global scale, which has entrusted the control of the various areas to deputies, which discusses big business in a sort of administrative council where the three brothers-in-law sit (once 4), or their deputies, and one representative of the Aieta family.
And it has the classical aspect of the mafia hydra. One, two, three heads can be cut off, but they will grow back until it is hit in the heart. Also when one of the bosses is arrested, you cannot keep him under lock and key for long. In 2000, the police captured Mallardo after he had escaped from the hospital in Giugliano, after having followed him for months, after having found at least 20 hide-outs, after having turned his affairs up-side-down, seizing goods and properties amounting to billions.
As soon as Mallardo is captured, the other extremely dangerous brother-in-law, Edoardo Contini becomes free as a bird, released from prison in November of the same year. Then, once more, Francesco Mallardo escapes, this time from a hospital in Piedmont. He was arrested again in 2003.
A family, therefore, which is understood as a united body dislocated over a territory which goes from the heart of Naples to the borders of the province of Caserta, one of the most densely populated areas in Italy.
Finished one war – another starts
The Secondigliano Alliance is opposed by the cartel which heads the clans “Misso –Mazzarrella – Sarno”, installed in the central and western parts of the city: with the usual fluctuations and changing fronts, typical of the Neapolitan criminality, included also are the clans “Di Biasi” (Spanish Quarters), “Grimaldi” (Socavo and rione Traiano), “Alfano” (Vomero), “sorprendente – Sorrentino” (Bagnoli) and “Lago” (Pianaura).
The leader clan, the one of Misso della SanitÓ, one of the areas of Naples with the highest density of criminality, found itself, at the end of 2005, contending with what was hastily called a “new civil war”.
The information collected by the Carabinieri and Police led to the assumption that the ambushes were an attempt to undermine the supremacy of the Misso clan, which held a dominant position in the direction of illegal traffic in that area of the city, which was now occupied by a group originated in the zone of Secondigliano and Miano: a group which, until the end of the 90’s were very tightly connected to the Misso, but which was now in open conflict with the leadership of the clan.
The break, according to investigative sources, was probably due both to the drug pushing in areas which the old bosses of the Misso clan were opposed to ( can this be believed?), and to the control of the habitation racket in rione SanitÓ, given in rent to the immigrants. Shootings in broad daylight, in alleys and narrow streets: once again, this crime has threatened the safety of passers-by, and for as much as the Neapolitan criminality is violent and without rules, this kind of place for this kind of appointment seems to need some kind of explanation.
One must be careful not to underestimate or mistake interpretation also in the so-called “civil war” against the clan of the SanitÓ.
Also here, perhaps it is opportune to ask a question, even if only to reply with a sharp no, but anyway, in an effort to abandon over-simplified schematics. And if great criminal formations like those indicated, or of more vague outlines, had decided to fight, delegating new criminal groups to attack the adversary, thereby, limiting the conflict and avoiding direct involvement? In other words, using a different tactic from that adopted by the mafia organization of the Campania, first between ’75 and ’83 (between cutoliani and anti-cutoliani) and then, in the mid-eighties (between those who were the clans of the New Family).
It is a choice which could explain, at least, in part, other conflicts.
But there is not only the ferment and turbulence of the city clans to worry about.
Clashes among the mafia organizations have been recorded also in the province in the last three years. From the armed clash between men of the Castaldo clan in the Acerra and Caivanozone (2003-20004) to that between the survivors of the D’Alessandro clan and new criminal formations gathered from the ex-mafia cutoliano Boss, Massimo Scarpa, in the Stabiese area, to the 15 crimes committed in the course of the fight between the Birra-Lacomino and Ascione clans, in the area of Portici and Ercolano (in 2002), to the bloody clash between the Cava and Graziano clans in the “Ramparts of Lauro”, marked by the shoot-out in which exponents of the two clans faced each other in an open urban centre. And among these, an unprecedented fact, there are five women, three of which are killed (2002).
Not to mention connected clashes in the Nolana area, between the Capasso clan, allied with the Russo and Nini clans – Pianese. And to finish, the ‘lupare bianche’ (lupara - sawn-off shot gun), the deaths of Luigi Antonio Bonavita and Francesco Cozzolino.
Giuseppe Vorraro and Gaetano Del Giudice, perhaps with the intention of constituting a new autonomous clan in the Vesuvian area, territory in which, since the defeat of Raffaele Cutolo, the only boss, at present in prison, is Mario Fabbrocino (nicknamed ‘the charcoal burner’). A ‘padrino’ who was, with Alfieri, Nuvoletta and Zaza, among the promoters of the New Family and an implacable rival of Cutolo. Fabbrocino was condemned to life imprisonment in April, 2005 for two murders, one of which was Roberto Cutolo, son of the Boss, Raffaele, killed at Tredate (Varese) in 1991.
In a context which, on the anti-mafia side, everything appears anything but calm, one runs the risk of interpreting, in a diminishing or deformed way, the nature of the mafia events; to not see dynamics which should, perhaps, be sensed, by interpreting silences, absences, inexplicable happenings on the Neapolitan criminal scene.
The provincial camorra, historically more structured than the city one, in particular, the organized bands which control the paesoni along the road to Nola and those considerably tied to the city clans/Giuglianese area, live in a greater silence with all the “benefits” which ensue.
There are very important evasions which have lasted by now, for 10 years. Names which appear in highly suspicious big business deals and which, however, are not found in the police data banks or in the judicial acts of the last 20 years.
Not to mention well-known camorra families which have for years been taking their wealth abroad, which make money by participating in the ostensibly legal, dirty business of other mafias. And then, a disquieting matter should be mentioned: how many mafia bosses have really abandoned activities, becoming collaborators of justice - and have even given important contributions - probably, they have been only slightly “bruised” by the patrimonial measures adopted in their regard.
The reaction of the people, the corrupted institutions
There are many honest people. The great majority. It is a common affirmation, but it is still the truth. And yet there are some – it cannot be ignored – who prefer to keep silent also when bullets are flying between prams and passers-by. It happened recently, as we have mentioned, at Rione SanitÓ.
And then they keep quiet when the camorra strangles with usury and the ‘racket’…. and lastly, there are people who openly support, for profit, fear or conviction, camorrist values and think they should be respected; people who make scenes and revolt at any arrest. For example, it happened in Scampia, on the 7th December, 2004, when the police arrested many men of the Di Lauro organization and ‘separatists’ of the adversary group.
A regular rebellion of the people was also recorded on the occasion of Cosimo Di Lauro’s arrest, a few weeks later. At least, five hundred people, many women, in the space of a few minutes, gathered around the building in which Di Lauro was detained.
Insults, threats and objects were hurled at the Carabinieri. Reinforcements were called in from the X battalion. The only way by which Di Lauro could be taken away was by creating a barrier of military personnel and vehicles; a human wall around the entrance of the building.
Dramatic, discouraging, but nothing new. and this is the disconcerting fact: over the years at the SanitÓ, at San Giovanni, at Forcella, at the Spanish Quarters, at Secondigliano, revolts of this type have taken place, during police interventions on the scenes of crimes, even for the arrest for one drug peddler. There have been so many, starting from the 80’s, but it cannot be said that the State have known how or have even wanted to start a process of reflection, an analysis, an inquiry into the deep significance of manifestations of this kind. Forms of “antagonism”, which are preferable to ignore and which for some irresponsible people are, perhaps, even useful?
In these times, to give a confused and also contradictory idea of the camorrist phenomenon, there is a daily utilization of the theme of the devastating camorrist infiltration into the local administration and in the institutions of the provinces of Naples, Salerno and Caserta, not done in order to reach the identification and denounce the real gravity of the phenomenon and its ramifications, but for the scope of mere political propaganda.
There is no interest to understand what is behind the occupation of every single community or the corruption of this or that administrator or official, or the irregular ties with the world of commercial enterprise and control of even the smallest public contract.
Instead, we witness the embarrassing spectacle of a Country which is called civilized and modern: always more numerous are the politicians who lend themselves, by way of saying, to a criminological fast food, when they speak of camorrist infiltration.
But then, of course, they discover that it concerns only those communities guided by the opposite political party and not those administered by their own coalition and they denounce the existence of family ties or close relations of town councillors in a certain community (of the opposite political party), but forget the suspicions that hover over councillors of their own party…. or even worse, they find politicians involved in judicial inquiries and certainly in no way free of suspicion, and have them go up into the pulpit and point an accusing finger.
In the end, it is forgotten that infiltration into the local administration, the close connections between politicians and criminality is a very grave problem; too often exploited. A problem which has been going ahead for over twenty years and touches practically every political formation without, however, leading to awareness, decency and consequent choices of transparency and, above all, legislative intervention which is really and truly efficient!
Meantime, in the province of Naples alone, out of the 92 communities, only about ten have not been disbanded or submitted to inspection for suspicion of camorrist infiltration. In the province of Caserta, several councils have been dissolved more than once; in the province of Salerno, one even finds a councillor who entrusts to a killer the solution of a dispute with a councillor of his own majority party. To soothe the conscience of certain politicians in Campania, we witness the agreed admission that the laws on the dissolution of community councils are inadequate and should be changed: in fact, they often finishes by penalizing the political-administrative machine, whereas, what should be hit is the infiltration in the bureaucratic apparatus which, on the contrary, if magistrates and police do not intervene and if the inquiry does not gather sufficient elements, the infiltrators remain, undisturbed, in their places. As administrative and penal sentences have demonstrated, there are many cases in Campania…, but meanwhile, the launching of reciprocal accusations continue.
To complete the picture, there is no lack of substantial doses of accusations, suspicions and poison, on the part of the contiguity, of behaviour, so to speak, “not exactly loyal” between investigative offices, judicial and organized criminality…. Events to which, once again, certain elements and expedients are not unusual: political exploitation, old grievances, in some cases, crossed vendettas, the desire, not even in an overly covert fashion, to ‘persuade’ magistrates that the investigation go in one direction, rather than another…
A depressing spectacle, especially if you take into account the difficulty of the work undertaken by the judicial and investigative apparatus in a territory which, for over twenty-five years, even though the numbers vary, remains a slaughterhouse.