Italy vs. the Mafia: Beheading the ‘Ndrangheta

Check out my piece on Italy’s latest Mafia bust in Time.

The wiretap evidence included scenes straight out of The Godfather. After months of clandestine recording, Italian police launched a predawn raid Tuesday, July 13, snatching up more than 300 alleged members of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization, including top bosses, businessmen and corrupt civil servants. Among those netted was Domenico Oppedisano, an 80-year-old man with a field worker’s tan. Investigators say evidence from wiretaps shows that he was confirmed as the syndicate’s top boss during a 2008 wedding of the children of two of the organization’s leaders.
In another cinematic moment caught on tape by Italian police, 22 men in suit jackets raise their glasses in a toast to the new leader of the region around Milan. The location: a center dedicated to the memory of two anti-Mafia judges assassinated in the 1990s. It was clearly meant as an insult to the dead. “This drove us even more,” says Ilda Bocassini, a Milanese prosecutor and one of the heads of the investigation. “To keep going, keep moving towards the top.”

Read the rest.

The Vigilante

The Atlantic has just published my dispatch from the Italian city of Oderzo, on a man driven by the death of his parents at the hand of immigrants.

The Italian City of Oderzo isn’t particularly known for its crime. Located a little more than an hour north of Venice on the wine-growing flats between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, it has a small urban center with clean cobbled streets flanked by well-lit arcades. On its immaculate walls, a tagger’s scrawl stands out like a scar.

So it’s a strange place to find a new program of citizen anti-crime patrols in action, the result of a controversial initiative by the xenophobic Northern League party.

Daniele Pelliciardi, the man who leads Oderzo’s patrols, hunches his shoulders against the last bite of winter. It’s just before sundown as he walks me through his beat. “Our work is to observe,” he says. “Everything strange that we’ll see will get recorded—from the Moroccan selling counterfeit bags to somebody purse-snatching an old lady.”

We haven’t walked more than a few blocks before I realize that the city’s initiative has less to do with anything about Oderzo itself than with the man who’s showing me the streets. The last major crime in the area was a brutal one. And it happened to Pelliciardi’s parents.

Read the rest.