Omerta in the Antipodes

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Among the 2,020,000 European immigrants who have poured into postwar Australia, fully 260,000 have been Italians, mostly from Calabria and Sicily. The newcomers added much that is welcome Down Under, from pizza and pasta to espresso bars and truck gardens. But as Melbourne last week was shaken by the shotgun explosions of gang warfare, Australians became aware that the new Italian immigrants had also brought with them the blood feuds of the Mafia and Camorra, as well as the code of silence induced by omerta (death for informers).

Rear Window. At stake was the overlordship of Melbourne's bustling, 16-acre Victoria Market, beneath whose iron-roofed sheds are crowded the stalls of 800 produce growers and 200 agents. Work in the market starts at 2 a.m. as trucks roll in with produce from Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland, and the stalls fill with a babble of Mediterranean tongues—Italian, Greek, Yugoslav—as well as Australian-twanged English. Trading is almost entirely in cash, and an estimated $45 million worth of fruits and vegetables pass through Victoria Market every year.

The struggle for power began in December 1962, when Marketeer Domenico Italiano, 65, known as Il Papa, died peacefully in bed. One strong contender for the job of Mr. Big was eliminated four months later when Vincenzo Angilletta was ambushed outside his home and blasted to death by both barrels of a shotgun. Last November, Domenico Demarie, 41, got the same treatment, but he survived as a sick and frightened man who swears he has no idea who attacked him or why. Fortnight ago, Vincent Muratore, 43, rose before dawn to go to his wholesale produce stall at the market. He got as far as his car when someone fired through the rear window, killing him instantly. Two days later, Truck Gardener Antonio Monaco, 39, was gunned down outside his shack.

Dapper Throngs. Melbourne's Italian-language newspaper Il Globo accused Victoria Market racketeers of all the shootings and prophesied that "the next victims will be at Muratore's funeral." At St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Muratore's body, clad in a Capuchin's robes, lay in a $1,575 casket with silver fittings, surrounded by floral offerings. Throngs of dapper Italians wearing black ties, dark tight-fitting suits with tapered trousers, and black pointed shoes escorted their wives in deep mourning. In a building opposite, Melbourne police focused binoculars and telephoto cameras on the 200 cars that made up the funeral procession. The man who is said to be the next candidate for assassination is wealthy Wholesaler Frank Madafferi, who attended Il Papa's and Muratore's funerals. "Let them come and get me," snapped Madafferi, then added, true to the omerta code, "All I know about these accidents and the Mafia is what I read in the newspapers—and I can't either read or write."

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