The Mafia on Sicily, an island of vineyards, ancient Greek temples and half-finished concrete buildings, has spent the last few years carefully burnishing its public guise and courting a new air of respectability. But even if it rarely makes headlines these days, the Cosa Nostra is flourishing, reports the Los Angeles Times. Mafia capos have suspended their most viciously violent campaigns – the ones where they might blow up a prosecutor visiting his mother or melt a young boy in acid – and instead are running commercial enterprises, securing government construction contracts and calmly claiming protection money from vast numbers of Sicily’s residents. They have become a gentler breed of criminals, harder to fight, virtually impossible to stop.
“The Mafia today is less violent, but much more infiltrated into daily life,” said Silvana Saguto, a judge in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, who, in 23 years on the bench, has sent many a mobster to jail. Saguto oversees a program that confiscates Mafioso property and assets as part of the punishment meted out by the courts. In the last decade, she estimated, she has seized about $7.5 billion worth of assets. Yet Saguto acknowledged it’s a drop in the bucket. This is a losing battle.