The presence of Mafia was felt ever since it originated in 9th century on the island of Sicily. Originally this secret society was targeting the wealthy in order to exhume money from them in return for “protection”. With years passed Mafiosi activities evolved into drug trafficking, money laundering, and political influence to control governments; but the basic structure stayed the same including idea of family, strong hierarchical layout, and taking a sacred oath at the initiation. Organized crime posses a threat to international financial markets and can also be damaging to political structures especially in a newly formed governments.
But at the same time law enforcement never could easily bring to justice offenders of these kinds of crime. Most people associate the word “mafia” with organized crime. They think right away about the famous Italian Mafia, or more recently about Sopranos. But in reality “mafia” means “refuge” in Arabic language, and has been present in some form since the 9th century. This kind of secret society originated in Sicily when Normans invaded the island, and native tribes were oppressed and forced into labor. To avoid this fate they were forced to move and hide in the hills of Sicily, but with every new invasion those refuges were sought out again.
This secret society was at that time mostly intended to unify the natives against their enemies. Its intention was to create a sense of family based on ancestry and Sicilian background. This idea of family was carried through in the structure of the organization, which had a strong hierarchical layout. Even in those times at the head of the organization were the dons or chiefs of a particular village, that answered to dons and chiefs that lived in the capital, Palermo. Another similarity was that members of the organization had to take an oath upon the initiation.
This oath contained five basic principles on which the Mafia was, and to this day is, based: ‘Omerta’ code of silence; total obedience to the boss; assistance to any befriended Mafia faction; avenge any attack on members of the Family; avoid any and all contact with the authorities. By 19th century Mafia organization had grown and evolved into a criminally oriented society that defied all laws, except for their own. At that time most common practice of Mafia was asking wealthy people for large sums of money in return for their protection. Of course, the only protection those wealthy people needed was from the Mafia.
If they weren’t compliant with the request, themselves or their family members would be targeted. In 1876 Mafia Don Raffaele Palizzolo decided to run for political office and thereby infiltrate the government of Sicily with plans to manipulate it from the inside out. He succeeded by having people vote at the gun point, and once in office, he made sure that one of his own will be a Prime Minister of Sicily. With two mafia dons in running the government it wasn’t hard to start funneling money. Of course there was a lot of opposition coming from politicians and aristocracy, but it was met and solved with violence.
When people started to move to America to find better opportunities, some mafia members decided to make a move as well. That’s how Mafiosi activities moved west from its origin. Italian mafia always has been and still is most powerful and most notorious in US. But all this talk about organize crime shouldn’t be so glamorized in the media; it carries a real influence on social and political issues and issues in law enforcement. Transnational organized crime groups pose more of a threat to international financial markets as the world economy becomes increasingly dependent on each other.
Laundering billions of dollars in organized crime money worsens national debt problems because the large sums of money are then lost to that country’s government. Russian organized crime groups are often involved in banking, according to FBI official James Moody, because public financial institutions are “the most vulnerable and lucrative target. ” The Russian Interior Ministry has estimated that Mafia controls most of Russia’s banks (“control” could mean that a Mafiosi owns a bank, or decisions are influenced by threat of violence). U. S. businesses in Russia are frequent targets of extortion, robberies, threats and murder.
Security costs for these businesses (especially physical protection, protection of goods, and forced payments to gangsters for “protection,”) often requires more than third of profits. So because of Mafia influence it’s hard to conduct an “honest” business in countries that are so corrupted. Global organized crime can have a damaging effect on political structures, especially the fragile new systems of government found in the former communist or totalitarian regimes. For example, in South America drug cartels have a great effect on government of Columbia by supporting and supplying guerilla rebels with arms and protection.
The Sicilian Mafia have used their economic power over local businesses and banks and their supplies of cash to corrupt politicians, judges and law enforcement; assassinating many of those public figures who will not cooperate. Media polls indicate that the many Russians believe the Mafia is more powerful than the government. As people feel that the government is powerless to stop organized crime, they turn to crime leaders for “protection” and political institutions begin to deteriorate. Another problem is international drug trafficking that holds the threat to the social well-being of all countries.
The increase in the scale of these operations has led to an increase in drug use, addiction, and general crime level. The common US-Mexico border alone causes a huge increase in the American drug problem: 60-70% of cocaine in the US enters at this border through a “Mexican-Columbian organized crime partnership”. Other European organized crime groups use this border to transport heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. It is becoming increasingly difficult to track the flow of narcotics into the United States as the drug cartel methods become more technically sophisticated.
But with all these problems present, traditionally organized crime was rarely brought to justice. Police have tried many tactics to try to lessen organized crime in all countries, but street informants, surveillance, undercover officers, immunity in return for information or testimony, often prove to be unrewarding. The most common reasons for arrest of organized crime members are racketeering, drugs, stolen property, prostitution, gambling, and murder. In the last 5 years, 1,170 mafia members of all ranks have been convicted and sentenced.
But it still leaves a lot of mafia on the street that keeps recruiting new members. Today, the younger generation of gangsters is more willing to break the code of silence and turn informer than face prison terms. Undercover operations are usually only called for when, by no other means, can you get information on an impending crime the group is about to commit. Informants are notoriously difficult to control with organized crime, but are absolutely essential with newly emerging gangs for which there is no historical database.
All of this is just a tip of the iceberg of what is going on in the mysterious world of organized crime. A lot is still not knows about where in the world and which organizations are corrupted, and how it will influence that particular business and the country’s and world’s economy in general. A lot of murders and assaults go unpunished, but it’s almost like police can’t do anything about it. And we can only wonder for how long countries will put up with that? But hope is minimal if you look at statistics; Mafia was here since 9th century and in all likelihood will be here for more centuries to come.