Pubdate: Sat, 18 Dec 2004
Source: Mail and Guardian (South Africa)
Copyright: Mail & Guardian, 2004


Italy - Antonio de Luise saw them coming. Police say the 20-year-old was a 
vedetta, or drug pusher's lookout, someone on the lowest rung of the ladder 
of organised crime in Naples. In panic, he turned into the nearest shop, a 
delicatessen hung with hams and salamis.

But the two men followed him in and shot him several times in front of 
staff and customers. One of the bullets lodged in De Luise's skull. He died 
in the ambulance on the way to hospital as a police helicopter swept low 
overhead searching for the killers. Witnesses said they escaped on a motorbike.

One of the bloodiest gang wars in the city's modern history is being played 
out in tower blocks strung with fairy lights and along high streets dotted 
with chuckling, mechanical Santas. Since the start of November, 28 people 
have died in killings linked to the Camorra, the Naples equivalent of the 
Sicilian Mafia.

Most were victims of a "civil war" tearing apart the gang or clan headed by 
the Di Lauros. The murders are almost always on Saturdays and Sundays. Last 
weekend was the worst so far -- five people killed or fatally wounded, 
including Antonio de Luise.

At stake is the cream of the city's narcotics business. The easiest way to 
buy drugs is to go to Scampia, a desolate area of tower blocks on the 
fringes of the city where they are sold as openly as the fruit and 
vegetables on roadside stalls.

Look closely at the blocks of flats and you will see large metal gates on 
some of the walkways and stairs. They have been put there, not by the 
council, but by the Camorra, so they can be locked by drug pushers as they 
flee the police.

"We have a bit of everything here," said Pasquale Errico, Scampia's new 
police chief. "There are lots of entirely respectable people and others who 
are deeply enmeshed with organised crime."

In 1982, the area fell under the sway of Paolo di Lauro and his associates 
following the murder of his predecessor as neighbourhood boss of the 
Camorra, but court papers seen by The Guardian newspaper show police first 
detected signs of tension within the clan before the summer.

Informants told them that efforts were being made to impose a new business 
model on the drug trade in Scampia. The Di Lauro business had always 
operated on a franchise basis. Each sales point was administered by a 
capopiazza who was free to do as he pleased so long as he paid the bosses 
an agreed sum for his "licence".

The informants said an attempt was being made to replace this system with 
another in which the drugs all had to be bought directly from the Di Lauro 

Paolo (51) disappeared from Naples two years ago. His place is thought to 
have been taken by the eldest of his 11 children, Vincenzo. But he was 
arrested in late 2003, and the leadership is believed then to have passed 
to his younger brother, Cosimo (31). Police suspect Cosimo provoked the crisis.

Earlier this year, a senior clan lieutenant, named in the documents as 
Raffaele Amato, fled to Spain after refusing to work by the new rules. 
There, he is thought to have begun recruiting supporters for a revolt. In 
Scampia, they are known as the Spaniards.

Errico was put in last month to try to stop the killing. Gang wars are his 
speciality: as the police chief of Ercolano, just outside Naples, the 
bustling, genial detective choked off an earlier bout of murderous Camorra 

There are two reasons the authorities worry about mobsters killing each 
other. One is that innocent people get caught up in their disputes, and die 
- -- sometimes horribly.

Gelsomina Verde was the 22 year-old girlfriend of one of the "Spaniards". 
She was kidnapped by Di Lauro loyalists who tried to beat her into telling 
them where her boyfriend was hiding. It seems it didn't work. So they shot 
her in the head. Her body was found by police in a burning car.

The other reason for concern is that Camorra conflicts tend to spread.

"Often the warring parties look for allies in other clans and so it can 
happen that a 'war' born in Scampia can have effects in other areas of the 
city," said Errico.

There have been several killings outside Scampia. Hit men walked into a 
restaurant at Bacoli, a coastal town near Naples, and shot dead the owner 
as he sat at the cash desk. By the time the police arrived, everyone had 
disappeared, leaving behind their half-eaten meals. Police said the owner 
was suspected of aligning a local gang with the "Spaniards".

For Errico, there is only one way to tackle the problem.

"You try to cut off the flow of cash. The idea is you give them another 
problem to worry about."

Since his arrival, he has harassed the two factions day and night. Patrol 
cars that cruised past known drug-peddling sites now remain for hours on 
end. Errico's men have gone with the fire brigade into the tower blocks to 
take oxyacetylene torches to the metal grilles and rip out the television 
cameras the Camorra uses to warn its members of the approach of the police.

The bus that brings out-of-town addicts up from the railway station is now 
routinely stopped and searched. Suspected addicts are sent back. A list of 
arms seized in raids since Errico's arrival offers evidence of the level of 
police activity and the degree of Scampia's militarisation: "Twenty 
automatic pistols, three revolvers, two submachine pistols, six rifles, one 
hand grenade, three letter bombs and 1 200 rounds of ammunition."

At the same time, Errico has stepped up investigations into the Di Lauro 
family's investments with a view to having its property in the area 

"But the Camorra is sly," he said. "The family's property will not be in 
the name of Di Lauro himself or even his son, but in that of someone with 
an entirely clean record who acts as a front man."

Finding the evidence to prove beneficial ownership can be a painstaking 
business, involving listening to hours of telephone conversations.

How long did it take him to stamp out the last gang war, in Ercolano?

Errico held up three fingers.

"Three months?"

He smiled.

"No", he said. "Three years."
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D