In 2018 you might have seen a photo in the
news of a grey haired, bespectacled man being escorted some place by the Italian police,
aka the carabinieri. The 80-year old guy, named Settimo Mineo,
would look to most people like someone’s loving grandpa. You might also say that he has the distinguished
look of the CEO of a company, and in some respects that is quite true. Police said that Mineo was the burgeoning
boss of something called the “Sicilian mafia commission”, a quasi-government that makes
decisions regarding what mafia outfits can do – including who gets “whacked.” It’s thought Mineo had taken over from a
person nicknamed “The Beast”, due to the hundreds of people whose assassinations he
ordered. Let’s now see just how serious these guys
are. When Mineo was taken away by police one of
the prosecutors said this: “We needed to stop them before it was too late.’’ Those are ominous words, but what’ll you
see today is that the Sicilian mafia commission is no joke. This well-structured organization has given
the green light to more assassinations than you would have thought possible. A lot of deaths were not just of other criminals,
but high-ranking officials; anyone who might have gotten in the way of business or even
passed down a rather harsh prison sentence. In short, the commission is made up of the
top bosses of the Sicilian mafia, aka the Cosa Nostra. The commission itself is sometimes called
“Cupola.” It has a long bloody history, and we’ll
try and condense that for you now. Later we’ll discuss just how much power
it currently has. One of the major events that shined a light
on the commission was something called, “The First Mafia War.” In short, this was a rather serious disagreement
between mafia families in Sicily concerning who would take control of the heroin trade
– a very profitable enterprise in North America. Members of certain mafia families took out
members of other families and it’s thought in all 68 people were killed. It wouldn’t be the last time blood would
be spilled in the fight to get drugs to Americans. This argument culminated in something called
the “Ciaculli massacre”. This was when a car bomb intended to kill
a mafia boss went off and ended up killing several police and military officers. The man who was supposed to die that day was
one Salvatore ‘Ciaschiteddu’ Greco, and it came to light that this guy was the head
of something called the Sicilian Mafia Commission. It’s said occasionally Italian-American
mobsters would meet with this man in Italy. The infamous Lucky Luciano made the trip to
Palermo to meet with Greco, and it is Luciano who is said to be the man who created the
first Commission in the United States. After the first Mafia war there was a crackdown
on mafia families and over 1,000 mobsters were arrested. It was during this time that reports suggested
there was such a thing as a commission and it consisted of leading members of families
that met together to discuss business. A well-known judge at the time read the reports
but he didn’t think the mafia was that organized. In the 1970s an Italian mobster turned informant
told authorities about this underground governing body, but they didn’t believe him. They said he was insane. He was telling the truth. But it wouldn’t be until something called
the Maxi trial that authorities would first admit that there was indeed a commission and
it was serious. The trial included 452 mafiosi accused of
all manner of crimes. With so many dangerous men on trial they actually
held it in a specially-designed bunker/courthouse under a prison. Not many criminals get that kind of treatment,
but hey, if that trial happened above ground would you have bet against some folks getting
blown-up? We wouldn’t. 19 bosses got life sentences and the others
found guilty were sentenced to a total of 2,665 years. They were convicted of 120 murders, and other
convictions included extortion and drug-trafficking. Some say this was the biggest trial in history,
and it was certainly the biggest trial against the Italian mafia. This is what the New York Times wrote in its
opening paragraph after the trial commenced: “The largest Mafia trial in history ended
today with guilty verdicts against 338 of 452 defendants accused of running a vast criminal
empire financed largely with heroin trafficking to the United States.” But what’s equally as important is the fact
the trial stopped people downplaying the existence of those powerful mob families. For a long time it just wasn’t known how
big this organization was, partly because there was a strict code of silence within
the various families, and partly because they paid off law enforcement and anyone not yet
on their side. They also had a tendency to take out judges,
politicians, witnesses and lawyers. So, while many people should have been prosecuted
before the Maxi trial, and the Costa Nostra exposed as dangerous and formidable as it
was, it just didn’t happen. The New York Times article from back then
cited a man who said the mafia was a “hierarchical organization with a precise decision-making
process.” That same guy also said behind it all was
a commission and that commission consisted of 12 men, all leaders of various families. So, while the commission had been existence
much longer, now the world really knew about it. The boogeyman was real. The Costra Nostra was organized…and dangerous. We should tell you that the main judge behind
the Maxi trial, one Rocco Chinnici, said to have been instrumental in bringing down the
bad guys, was himself ultimately killed by the bad guys. He was taken out by a car bomb, as were three
others that were unfortunate enough to be near him. It’s said the mafia was furious about the
harsh sentences and so went into revenge mode. They assassinated other judges involved with
the trial. Even a journalist was taken out. There has been a lot of speculation and division
concerning how the commission actually works. Is it really as organized as a government
body. Can it be compared to a board of directors
of a company? One criminologist wrote this about cupola,
“Contrary to the wide-spread image presented by the media, these superordinate bodies of
coordination cannot be compared with the executive boards of major legal firms. Their power is intentionally limited and it
would be entirely wrong to see in the Cosa Nostra a centrally managed, internationally
active Mafia holding company.” So rather than an organization that links
everyone together and basically controls the machinery of the mafia, the commission might
just get together to make some big decisions from time to time. Perhaps if the mafia was a franchise, like
McDonalds, the leading franchise owners would get together now and again to talk about killing
cows or how they might make milkshakes more addictive. It has evolved throughout its history but
it’s thought that the commission would usually consist of the heads of families with the
biggest clans. They were the strongest families. There would be one head, or secretary, who
was that man named Greco we discussed when the commission first got off the ground. All he really did was call people to the meetings. There were lots of different members of the
commission over the years, and at times the various families got on ok. After that first mafia war they had agreed
to try and get along, an agreement called the “pax mafiosa.” Pax can mean peace, or truce. But peace wasn’t always on the cards. Coalitions were at times formed and those
groups wanted others out of the way. Mobsters on the commission sometimes were
assassinated, and sometimes the rules were changed in the commission. For instance, after one coalition attained
more power after getting rid of their rivals, they created a rule which meant the commission
could suspend a leader of a family and install a temporary boss. You then had to play by their rules. They had rigged the game by changing the constitution. This was all actually going on before the
Maxi trial. The reason for that Maxi trial in the first
place was because so much blood was being spilled. Not only were the mafia intimidating politicians
and judges and law enforcement, but they were killing each other in what was called the
second mafia war. Around 200 mafia members were killed or went
missing. It was that guy nicknamed “The Beast”
who was behind a lot of the assassinations. His name was Salvatore “Totò” Riina,
and he was known not only for his ruthlessness regarding murder, but also for the fact he
was quite the authoritarian boss. He became the last boss of the commission
and held that position for a long time. We know we told you at the start that the
guy who looked like someone’s grandpa was the new boss, but The Beast was the last official
boss. The grandpa, Settimo Mineo, was said to have
just started a new commission but was stopped in his tracks. The Beast was sometimes called the boss of
bosses and he came with the tagline, “’He killed all his rivals.” He died in prison in 2017 aged 87 after being
sentenced to serve his time in what Amnesty International calls, “cruel, inhumane or
degrading treatment.” The courts were never going to go easy on
a man who had ordered the killings of so many officials. This man was accused of ordering the murder
of 150 people, but some say it was much higher than that. This is what The Guardian wrote after The
Beast died, “The crime syndicate still exists, and still shapes people’s social and economic
lives in parts of Sicily, but it is a shadow of what it once was, undermined by the relentless
scrutiny of Italian police and prosecutors and unable to regain its dominance of the
illegal drug trade.” It was the end of an era. When The Beast was the boss the commission
didn’t really even attempt to maintain any level of peace. One Mafia expert said this about him to the
Guardian, “He assassinated his rivals. He killed all of them, hundreds of them, he
literally ethnically cleansed them out of Palermo.” So, is that the end of the commission or is
something bad brewing somewhere in the cellars of Sicily? Well, since The Beast was arrested another
4,000 members of the mafia were also arrested. Millions of dollars were seized and it seems
mafia power is certainly not what it used to be. Saying that, one former magistrate who’d
worked on an anti-mafia taskforce said those guys will never give up. They might be weakened, but they’ll try
to come back. The Guardian said this about that guy, “He
is one of the few anti-mafia magistrates from those years who is still alive.” With new technologies the commission might
not have a chance. Police are too good at watching over people,
but that’s why Grandpa Mineo, the man who wanted to make the commission what it once
was, did not even use a mobile phone. It’s reported he even walked everywhere
because he thought the cops would have his car bugged. Reports tell us that some mobsters liked his
methods, and the fact he reminded them of the old school Costa Nostra. But the old ways meant old-fashioned tactics. He might have been chosen to head a new commission,
but he did things the old way. The chief of the anti-mafia national prosecution
office said this about Mineo becoming the new head, “And by choosing him, they also
chose the old methods of intimidations, like sending severed lamb’s heads to the businessmen
who refused to pay the protection money.’’ He looks like such a nice man, too. We guess you really can’t go on appearances. Reports in 2019 tell us that the Cosa Nostra
empire has been declared a thing of the past by officials in Sicily. Mineo was the last great hope, and now that
he’s gone those officials are confident the mafia has all but been wiped out. We say all but, because people accept remnants
of it exist, but it’s not capable of doing things like taking out judges and controlling
a vast opiates empire in the USA. One lawyer working in Sicily said there are
younger members of the mafia but they don’t get the respect the older guys got and so
there is no leadership and no framework. She said it’s hardly very organized crime
at all. She said that the mafia is in disarray, adding
that while some guys will get out of prison and try to act like leaders, they are not
leaders at all. She said, “They are men who, once they’ve
served their prison time and are back on the streets, put on airs as godfathers. They think they’re bosses. The truth is that this is no longer Cosa Nostra.” There is no super-boss and many people claiming
to be mafiosa are accused of being nothing but petty crooks. One person critical of what’s left of the
mafia even said the new guys were merely “chicken thieves.” The mafia might be done, and perhaps proof
of this is that if you walk down a street in Palermo these days you’ll see stalls
selling mafia-themed t-shirts. Still, there are some people that say the
costa nostra isn’t dead yet and it might be arrogant to think it won’t rise from
the grave. As one person put it, “The battle isn’t
over yet.” In fact, we found a recent article about a
Sicilian mafia family who’d been in the United States for years and had returned to
Sicily to start their criminal activity there. This family was very close to the Italian-American
mafia, but had decided to go back home. An Italian newspaper wrote the headline, “The
Godfather returns”. How do you think the Sicilian mafia could
become powerful again? What would you do if you were the big boss? Tell us in the comments. Then go watch “Crazy Italian Mafia Crimes”
Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.