A capo's annual report
Mar 4th 2004 | BAGHERIA, WESTERN SICILY
From The Economist print edition
How the Boss of Bosses might report the Mafia's revival
I am pleased to report another year of progress for your—that is, our—corporation. Significant milestones included my 80th birthday, the 40th anniversary of my decision to go on the run and the tenth anniversary of the arrest of my predecessor, Salvatore “Shorty” Riina. It is a good moment to look back at developments since his “early retirement”. Some people say that Shorty overreached himself in taking on the Italian state, killing judges and bombing the mainland. They say, if only the authorities had caught up with Shorty earlier, we'd have been saved a lot of trouble. But I say: “To err is human; to forgive, divine”.
The pillars of our policy since Shorty's arrest have been a lower media profile and renewed concentration on core businesses. What we do best is to sell insurance (from ourselves). I decided to lower premiums to raise market share. Ten years on, demand for our discreetly, if persuasively, marketed “unrefusable offers” has never been stronger. The same can be said of our public-works consultancy, which has striven to achieve full vertical integration, taking profits at every level. We have curbed foreign activities, but profits from sales of drugs and arms have held up well.
It is in the nature of our business that there is vigorous—indeed homicidal—rivalry between local offices. I made it a priority to minimise needless disputes. The results can be seen in a media profile that would suit a plumbing-accessories manufacturer. In 2003 La Stampa used the words Cosa Nostra 139 times. Ten years earlier, the figure was five times as high. The aim of my “strategy of submersion” was chiefly to lull our opponents into a false sense of security, so improving the business environment for our future growth. As evidence of our success, I note that the Italian parliament's anti-Mafia commission has not visited Palermo in the past three years.
The government of Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party won all 61 seats in Sicily in 2001, has not, regrettably, fulfilled all the high hopes we had for it. It has not repealed the strict “involuntary vacation” regime for many of our employees. However, the prime minister, who has problems of his own with the law, has made certain changes that benefit us. Our treasury and acquisitions departments report that it is far easier to launder profits and set up bogus corporate vehicles now that the government has decriminalised false accounting. And Mr Berlusconi's hostile attitude has helped to undermine the judiciary, not least among any of our employees who might be tempted to betray our secrets.
Going forward, we face challenges. One is to find a way to profit from EU-funded contracts that have conditions attached seeking to block our involvement. Another is our excessive dependence on the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta for wholesale cocaine supplies. But the biggest test of all is to maintain our brand's reputation. Most people know that Sicily's Mafia is the real Mafia. But our low profile could yet lull potential customers into thinking we are harmless. If the staff lose the habit of murdering and torturing, they might even be proved right. Your board is working on solutions to this problem. Meanwhile, healthy cashflow, negligible publicity and rising apathy all give hope of a prosperous future.
As in previous years, we shall not be making donations to charity.
Boss of Bosses
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