The Mafia is guilty of many things: Murder. Drug trafficking. Kidnapping. Extortion. Bribery.
Now a new accusation has been added to the list of misdeeds: faking a video of their secret initiation ceremony as part of an elaborate public relations hoax.
That latest accusation follows widespread publicity last week, after members of the Calabria mafia — or ’Ndrangheta — were captured in Italy on a hidden police camera taking an initiation oath in front of a gun and suicide pill.
In the video, which was released by the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Milan, lots of religious and Italian political references were made, as inductees were told they were expected to swallow the suicide pill if they were ever pushed to betray their organization.
Marcello Ravveduto, a researcher with the Salerno University in Italy, reacted by telling the International Business Times in New York he suspects it’s an elaborate publicity stunt orchestrated by the ’Ndrangheta to cover the organization’s real activities.
In effect, Ravveduto says the crime group staged the video as a public relations stunt, knowing it would be recorded and made public by police in order to curry favour with the public.
“It confirms the idea of mimicking the state and using the Italian myths to affirm their Italian-ness,” Ravveduto said.
Antonio Nicaso, a GTA author who has written widely on the Mafia, disagrees.
Nicaso, who has written several books with crusading Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Nicola Gratteri, offers several reasons why the video should be considered the real McCoy:
1.The end result of the operation. Thirty-eight ’Ndrangheta members were arrested at the end of the operation which produced the video. If they are so smart, why use their brains to elude police rather than stage a play for their hidden cameras?
2.The grammar in the video. In 2013, an Italian police informer, who had worked as a professor, told the Carabinieri that he had been instructed to clean up some grammatical errors in the old ’Ndrangheta code of conduct and to insert some mythical references into its initiation ceremony. Those changes and mythical references are present in the police video. The informer/grammarian is now in a witness protection program.
3.The organizational structure referred to in the video. The code caught on film is a current one, that’s supported by a written code discovered in Calabria in 1989 — when police arrested fugitive ’Ndrangheta boss Giuseppe Chila — and another one discovered in Switzerland.
It’s quite different from a 27-page code of conduct that created shock waves in police circles back in the early 1970s, when it was discovered in the cookie jar of GTA resident Francesco Caccamo.
Nicaso says that ’Ndrangheta codes are continually evolving, since they were first discovered in the 19th century. “Adapting a code allows the ’Ndrangheta to endure across generations,” Nicaso says.
4.The ’Ndrangheta is trickable. Back in 1985, the RCMP managed to get a member inducted into the ‘Ndrangheta in London, Ont., in a ceremony they captured on video. Fittingly, the operation was called “Project Oaf.”
5.The religious and political imagery on the video rings true. It might seem overblown and absurd to the average person, but ’Ndrangheta members eat this sort of thing up.
“The ritual, the symbolism, is what makes them feel different — that they belong to a special class,” Nicaso says.