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Anorak | Studies in the mafia’s lemons

Studies in the mafia’s lemons

by | 8th, February 2018

Big news on Mafia money. Queen’s University, Belfast declares on February 7 2008:

Researchers from Queen’s, in collaboration the University of Manchester and the University of Gothenburg, have uncovered new evidence to suggest that the Sicilian mafia arose to notoriety in response to the public demand for citrus fruits.

Who knew? Well , in 2012, this academic paper produced at the university of Gothenburg us:

In this paper, we study the emergence of an extractive institution that hampered economic development in Italy for more than a century: the Sicilian mafia. Since its first appearance in the late 1800s, the origins of the Sicilian mafia have remained a puzzle. In this paper, we develop the argument that mafia arose as a response to an exogenous shock in the demand for oranges and lemons, following Lindís discovery in the late 18th century that citrus fruits cured scurvy.

And this from 2009:

And improbable as it sounds, the birth of the Cosa Nostra, in part, was down to…the lemon…

The first evidence we have for the Mafia is in an account by one Dr Galati. Galati was certainly not the first to be persecuted by the Mafia, but he was the first person to leave a detailed account of his dealings with them. In 1872 Galati came to inherit a pristine four-hectare lemon grove only a ten-minute walk from Palermo. However, all was not well inside its walls. Its previous owner, the doctor’s brother-in-law, had died of a heart attack following a series of threatening letters. Some time before he died, he learned that the sender of these letters was a warden on his own grove, Benedetto Carollo, who had dictated them to someone who was literate. He said that he swaggered around the grove making wild threats against Galati and it was well known that he creamed at least twenty per cent off the sale price. He even stole coal for the steam engine. Eventually lemons started to go missing from the grove. Orders couldn’t be met and the grove got a bad reputation. Carollo was trying to ruin the grove so as to buy it himself. Galati sacked him and hired a replacement.

Some ‘good friends’ of Carollo’s came around and advised that Galati should take him back, but Galati refused.

At approximately 10pm on 2 July, 1874, Carollo’s replacement was shot several times. The hitmen had built a platform behind a stone wall so as to shoot him in a winding back lane. This method became a staple of early Mafia hits. The police were called and they tactfully ignored Galati’s convictions that it was Carollo, arresting instead two men who had no connection with the victim and then promptly releasing them. He received a series of threatening letters, seven in all, which said it was a disgrace for a ‘man of honour’, such as Carollo, to be fired.

Eventually he was forced to flee the country after a series of attempts on his life.

And there’s a book:

As Helena Attlee writes in her history of Italian citrus, The Land Where Lemons Grow, “the speculation, extortion, intimidation, and protection rackets that characterize Mafia activity were first practiced and perfected in the mid-19th century among the citrus gardens of [Palermo].” In fact, the association was so strong that some historians and political economists now think the group actually arose directly from the citrus trade: life gave them lemons, and they made organized crime.

And another book:

Ever since it was born in the fragrant lemon gardens of Palermo a century and a half ago, a sworn brotherhood has pursued power by cultivating the simple, terrible art of killing people with impunity.

That cutting-edge research, then, bit of a lemon…

Spotter: Tim Worstall



Posted: 8th, February 2018 | In: Money Comment | TrackBack | Permalink