From their origins in the 19th century doing some low level crimes such as cattle theft, extortion and election slugging, Cosa Nostra or the Sicilian Mafia came a long way by really expanding their operations in the 20th century. Let’s explore the Sicilian Mafia at their peak and how the maxi trial took place.
Sicilian Mafia At Their Peak
In the early 1920s, Benito Mussolini, a fascist leader started a campaign to end the mafia’s control over Sicily and to start a fascist regime instead. This campaign resulted in 11,000 suspects being gathered and arrested, with 1,200 Mafiosi imprisoned. This campaign lasted around 4 years, and death rates in Sicily had dropped significantly. The mafia was not completely destroyed, but it took them a while to build themselves back up. In the 1940s during the Second World War, the Sicilian Mafia managed to take control, finding positions as political leaders. In the 1950s, the mafia infiltrated into America as there was need for building companies after the war and the Mafiosi backed the construction companies for a lot of profit. They also grew the drug trafficking business by tenfold, and the Mafioso in America operated to make sure the drugs were properly trafficked and distributed to dealers from the Mafioso owned pizzerias.
The First and Second Mafia Wars
How could it be a mafia without violence? The first mafia war that was prominent amongst the Cosa Nostra was between mafia tribes in Italy after the war in 1962. The war was initiated because Cesare Manzella took Sicilian clan Di Pisa’s side rather than the La Barberas’ during a dispute over heroin trafficking which angered the La Barberas who then killed Manzella and Di Pisa. This war ended with the deaths of many.
The Second war of the mafia was initiated by Luciano Leggio, the leader of the Corleone clan after he allied mafia clans in order to rule over Cosa Nostra to take over their drug trafficking ventures as well. Leggio was also a member of the Sicilian Mafia Commission. Since Leggio was imprisoned he put Salvatore Riina, who was his deputy, to the task. They bribed the other clans to join them in their cause and expelled those members of the Sicilaian mafia commission who hid drug trade revenues. Thus, when the Corleones killed Stefano Bontade, a member of the Cosa Nostra, the second war was waged where many Mafiosi and their families were killed.
The Maxi Trial lasted for 6 years, and it was extremely important in identifying the existence of the Cosa Nostra. This criminal trial took place in Palermo, Sicily and was the largest ever, as 360 defendants were convicted and 114 were acquitted.
The Mafia Today
In today’s world, the Sicilian Mafia are known as an international crime organization who specialize in military arms trafficking, heroin trafficking and political corruption. It is estimated that around 2500 Sicilian Mafia members are located in the States and still actively working.