21 January 2015
These mysterious documents are written in the secret code of Italy’s feared ‘Ndrangheta.
For years the organised crime syndicate from Calabria, in Italy’s deep south, has fought rivals and police for control of the drugs trade in Rome.
But yesterday law enforcement struck a powerful blow against the group, arresting 26 suspected members and seizing more than half a ton of cocaine and cannabis – as well as these notebooks.
Most importantly, included with the encrypted documents was a cipher, which explains how each of the hieroglyphics of the so-called San Luca Code correspondents to letters of the Latin alphabet.
Now police have been able to decipher the notebook, revealing what they described as ‘the archaic procedural mechanisms regulating the “initiation rite” of the ‘Ndrangheta,’ according to a statement seen by the Ghana News Agency.
Elsewhere the documents are said to outline the founding myth of Italy’s mafia gangs. The ‘Ndrangheta believes itself descended from one of three Spanish knights who saved the honour of their sister by killing a man, but were banished for their crime to the Sicilian island of Favignana.
There they wrote the first code of conduct and formulated the law of ‘omertà’ – the code of silence – before splitting up to form secret societies.
One went to Sicily where he formed the Cosa Nostra; another went to Naples where he formed the Camorra; the third went to Calabria where he formed the ‘Ndrangheta.
With Italian businesses struggling to survive six years of on-off recession, mafia groups have found fertile ground to launder their criminal proceeds in Rome and other parts of Italy not normally associated with organised crime.
‘The ‘Ndrangheta considers Rome an integral part of its criminal project. Some members have said: “Rome is the future”,’ anti-mafia magistrate Michele Prestipino said.
‘The Rome marketplace is strategic and helps the clans accumulate criminal and economic power.’
Over the past two decades, police and prosecutors have dealt severe blows to the Sicilian Mafia, for decades Italy’s most powerful criminal group.
But at the same time, on the southern tip of the Italian mainland, the ‘Ndrangheta has grown in strength by becoming one of Europe’s biggest cocaine importers.
On top of the 1,300lb of drugs seized, police said they had documented the trafficking of another 3,300lb of coke and hashish, Reuters reported.
Hieroglyphics: The documents and cipher were seized in a raid in Rome yesterday, when police swooped on 26 members of the ‘Ndrangheta and discovered more than half a ton of cocaine and cannabis
To extend its reach over the city’s drug market, the ‘Ndrangheta formed a hit squad to shoot dead a rival mob boss two years ago, police said.
When the alleged assassins were tracked down last year, one of them turned state’s evidence and provided information vital to Tuesday’s arrests, Mr Prestipino said.
The group had logistical bases in Genoa, Milan and Turin, and sent representatives to liaise with the most violent Colombian cocaine cartels, Finance Police Commander Cosimo Di Gesu said.
Of the 31 wanted suspects, four others were detained in Spain, and only one was still at large.
The gang’s ambition was to ‘monopolise the Roman drug market, establishing itself as the broker for the other criminal groups operating in the same territory’, police said.
Mr Prestipino said there were no direct links between this mafia group and one run by a former right-wing extremist who was arrested at the end of last year for masterminding a kickback scheme to manipulate Rome’s city government.