Business-migrants against the Sicilian mafia

Merchants, migrant in Palermo decided to repulse them blackmailing the mafia. The merchants-Italians, also suffering from the mafia, not rush to support people from abroad.There was a time when Reuben had to keep the door of his shop constantly closed even during working hours. Ruben is originally from Bangladesh. In 2002, a Sicilian of Palermo, on a crowded street via Maqueda, he opened point of transferring money abroad. In the shops on via Maqueda, among the old facades and the old Palazzo, you can buy anything from gifts to Indian Sari and North African spices. It is here that some shop owners ten immigrants from Bangladesh and one from Tunisia – I wanted to change the routine of things. They have decided not to tolerate meek street crime and extortion.

With the support of the local group Addio Pizzo (translated from Italian – “goodbye, blackmail”) who fights crime, the shop owners called the police. In may 2016 this has led to the arrest of nine people who appeared in court on charges of extortion, robbery, arson and mutilation.

Merchants, migrant vs Sicilian racketeers

After these arrests, says Ruben, his customers no longer had to press the call button to enter the shop. “On this street before there were cases of armed robberies,” he says to the correspondent of DW. The robbers tried all possible ways to reach the money. “Sometimes I was forced to pay just to have the opportunity to continue the work,” says Ruben. According to him, the racketeers usually required from 40 to 50 Euro weekly.

In 2015, the position of Ruben deteriorated. “After they tried to Rob me, I began to keep the door closed. Many times they wanted to break into my shop. And was always on duty outside, eight or ten people, day and night,” recalls the native of Bangladesh. But now the door of his shop during working hours is always open.

The turning point was the incident that occurred in April 2016, when one of the criminals, Emmanuel Rubino, terrorizing the whole neighborhood, in broad daylight, shot in the head by a young Gambian Yusuf Suso. Susso only narrowly survived. The incident provoked protests, and they eventually led to the arrest of a Mafioso. Rubino was tried and sentenced to 12 years in prison. With five of his accomplices were acquitted on the case of extortion, and one is under house arrest. In the near future the process will continue.

The mayor of Palermo: mafia weakened

This is the first case when such a number of small businessmen of foreign origin together served on anyone the court, says Daniele Marandino of Addio Pizzo. “We have always called together to report incidents, because the more applicants, the lower the risk,” adds the activist. The ballaro district with narrow streets and small shops has long been a stronghold of the “Cosa Nostra”, of the Sicilian mafia. However, now the situation has changed.

The old order, when one of the mob bosses could pass on to their subordinates areas to “control” no longer exists, assures in an interview with DW leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo. After the response faced by the mafia in recent years, this criminal structure became more horizontal. “The old system is now weakened,” says Orlando.

As follows from the report of the research center Transcrime on international crime in 2013, the Sicilian mafia, by their unlawful actions have received about half of that “earned” the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. But in recent years at the forefront of new influential players such as the Nigerian criminal group “Black axe”. 14 of its members over the past months have been convicted of involvement in mafia structures. This was the first time that Italian justice has rendered a similar verdict in respect of a foreign criminal organization.

Business-the Italians are the police to address not in a hurry

“I used to keep in cash as much cash as they could. Now I don’t have to fear,” said, showing a stack of bills, Faisal, who asked not to be his real name. It serves one of the supermarkets on via Maqueda. Faisal – the one who told the police a gang Rubino.

And although many of the affected merchants with via Maqueda arrived from abroad, among the victims of a mafia is and local. However, none of them signed a joint statement to the police from the store owners. Many of them are still bribes from the mafia, said a representative of Addio Pizzo.

Organization since 2004, since its founding in the first place trying to convince people of the need to speak out about the machinations of the mafia. “Now to speak has become easier, but, given the scale of the problem until that is solved very few,” admits Maranzano.

Addio Pizzo not only helps traders who have become victims of racketeers and ready to go to the police. The organization also created a network, which includes about thousands of stores, wishing to resist the extortion. In particular, the participants prominently pasted at the entrance to their establishments stickers with the logo of Addio Pizzo. Now, choosing the store for shopping, residents can support the fight against crime.

“Police work is very important, but until we change the consciousness of such things (extortion cases. – Ed.) will come again and again. While there is a businessman willing to pay, there will be someone who will use it” – sums up Maranzano.

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