Thursday, 22nd March, 2018

Italian Mafia - an introduction

26, Nov 2013 By Mahesh Jagga

This is an extract from the Wikipedia page of Italian (Sicilian) Mafia. Just replace the words Mafia with Indian politician. Which political parties come to your mind?


It is difficult to define exactly, the single function, or goal, of the phenomenon of the Mafia. Its functions & goals change with time. Another popular name for it is ‘Cosa Nostra’.

Cosa Nostra is not a monolithic organization, but rather a loose confederation of about one hundred groups known alternately as “families”, “borgatas” or “clans”.


To be part of the Mafia is highly desirable for many street criminals. For one, mafiosi receive a great deal of respect, for everyone knows that to offend a mafioso is to risk lethal retribution from him or his colleagues. Mafiosi have an easier time getting away with crimes, negotiating deals, and demanding privileges.

A prospective mafioso is carefully tested for obedience, discretion, courage, ruthlessness and skill at espionage. He is almost always required to heinous commit crime as his ultimate trial.

A mafioso’s legitimate occupation, if he has any, generally does not affect his prestige within Cosa Nostra. Professionals such as lawyers and doctors do exist within the organization, and are employed according to whatever useful skills they have.


Traditionally, only men can become mafiosi, though in recent times there have been reports of women assuming the responsibilities of imprisoned or killed mafiosi relatives. The underboss is usually appointed by the boss. He is the boss’ most trusted right-hand man and second-in-command.

The consigliere serves as an impartial adviser to the boss and in internal disputes. To fulfill this role, the consigliere must be impartial, devoid of conflict of interest and ambition.


Other than its members, Cosa Nostra makes extensive use of “associates”. These are people who work for or aid a clan (or even multiple clans) but are not treated as true members. These include corrupt officials and prospective mafiosi. An associate is considered by the mafiosi nothing more than a tool, someone that they can “use”.


Protection racketeering is one of the Mafia’s core activities.

Mafiosi have protected a great variety of clients over the years: landowners, businessmen, shopkeepers, drug dealers, etc. Whilst some people are coerced into buying protection and some do not receive any actual protection for their money (extortion), by and large there are many clients who actively seek and benefit from mafioso protection.

The Mafia’s protection is not restricted to illegal activities.

Mafiosi sometimes protect businessmen from competitors by threatening their competitors with violence. If two businessmen are competing for a government contract, the protected can ask his mafioso friends to bully his rival out of the bidding process.

Mafiosi generally do not involve themselves in the management of the businesses they protect or arbitrate. Lack of competence is a common reason.

In many situations, mafia bosses prefer to establish an indefinite long-term bond with a client, rather than make one-off contracts. The boss can then publicly declare the client to be under his permanent protection (his “friend”). This leaves little public confusion as to who is and isn’t protected, so thieves and other predators will be deterred from attacking a protected client and prey only on the unprotected.

Roughly 70 percent of businesses pay protection money to Cosa Nostra.