The Italian Mafia is now raking in big profits in the drug trade, conducted even from the confines of prison. It is said that the Mafia in the United States began when Giussepe Esposito relocated to the United States from Sicily. He moved to New Orleans, where he oversaw a flourishing Sicilian criminal operation. (Lyman, 2011: 256). Seeing that America presented huge opportunities, the Mafia kept on growing. In the 1920s, the Mafia families had control over virtually all criminal enterprises, and they purchased impunity by corrupting high-level police and government officials.
The 20s was the period of the Prohibition, and the Mafia gained immense wealth through bootlegging, or the smuggling of prohibited liquor. They then spread out and engaged in other business, most notably drug trafficking. The Pizza Connection was a large-scale investigation undertaken in the 1980s that revealed just how big the drug operations of the Sicilian Mafia were and how they have managed to penetrate the American markets. According to Lyman, “the breadth of the investigations expanded worldwide, with Mafia members identified in such countries as Brazil, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and the United States.
So vast was the investigation that it took federal investigators one full year to try the case. ” (page 259). The Mafia often relies on the strategy of cooptation of state agents through corruption. So embedded are they in the structure that they often pose serious consequences, not only for law and order, but for the growth of the legitimate economy. Says Fiorentini and Peltzman (1997: 35), “the mafia creates monopolies in local enterprises, controls entry and maximises revenue by extracting monopoly profits as protection payments; new investment may be discouraged and old investment driven out. ” The similarity between the Mafia and other prison groups is that these organizations typically make use of very well-defined structures within the organization to exact commitment and accountability from its members.
Because of the illegality of the operations, it is necessary that no one informs the police or in any way go against the leadership and disclose the covert activities of the organization to a competitor. The main difference is that whilst the Mafia is made up of only one ethnic origin (Italians or more specifically Sicilians), the organizations are made up of diverse ethnic origins such as Latin America.
What was cause for surprise is that these drug organizations or gangs have turned out to be even more powerful than the Mafia.
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