Oddly Enough

Mafia code reveals gangsters' 10 commandments

ROME (Reuters) - Mafiosi wanted: must swear absolute loyalty, be punctual and avoid bars.

Italy's state police inspect the house of Salvatore Lo Piccolo, who magistrates believe is the Sicilian Mafia's new "boss of bosses", outside the Sicilian capital Palermo November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Giuseppe Piazza

A list of ‘10 commandments’ for gangsters, found at the home of the Sicilian Mafia’s top boss, has given investigators a unique insight into what makes a perfect mobster.

Italian newspapers published on Thursday what appeared to be a ‘constitution’ for the Cosa Nostra, a list of principles which was found in the house of Salvatore Lo Piccolo, the suspected “boss of bosses”, who was arrested on Monday.

“I swear to be faithful to Cosa Nostra. If I betray, my flesh should burn,” reads the text, which goes on to set out a moral code for Mafia members.

“You don’t look at the wives of those who are our friends,” says the code, which bans mafiosi from frequenting bars, says they should respect their wives and excludes from the Mafia anyone with “behaviour which does not comply with moral values”.

Italians might have reason to question these “moral values”, since the mafia makes an estimated 75 billion euros a year from protection rackets and loan sharking.

People who refuse to pay suffer the consequences, like Palermo merchant Libero Grassi who was killed in 1991. Faced by such threats, some eight out of 10 businesses in parts of Sicily pay off the mob.

Decades of police efforts have failed to shake the mafia’s grip, while investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed by bombs in 1992.

Mafia watchers have often wondered about the existence of a constitution for the criminal gang and Italian media speculated that the document found at the boss’s house was just that.

The code bans from the mafia anyone related to a police officer and says mafiosi should never be godfather to a policeman’s children or vice versa.

Mafiosi must tell the truth when questioned by their superiors and must not steal from mafia families. “You have a duty at all times to be available to Cosa Nostra, even if your wife is about to give birth,” the code says.

Men who have experienced “family betrayals” are not eligible to join the mafia -- an apparent reference to anyone who has been cuckolded, a humiliation in traditional Italian society.

Rome’s Il Messaggero daily speculated the code might have been used by Lo Piccolo to speed up recruitment of new mafiosi after he took the reins of the organisation from former “boss of bosses”, Bernardo Provenzano, who was arrested last year.

Editing by Oliver Bullough