Home / Lyrics / Antonio Onorato / Forcella
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The huge international clothing market, the vast archipelago of italian elegance, is fed by the system. with its companies, men, and products, the system has reached every corner of the globe. system—a term everyone here understands, but that still needs decoding elsewhere, an obscure reference for anyone unfamiliar with the power dynamics of the criminal economy. camorra is a nonexistent word, a term of contempt used by narcs and judges, journalists and scriptwriters; it's a generic indication, a scholarly term, relegated to history—a name that makes camorristi smile. the word clan members use is system—'i belong to the secondigliano system'—an eloquent term, a mechanism rather than a structure. the criminal organization coincides directly with the economy, and the dialectic of commerce is the framework of the clans
The secondigliano system has gained control of the entire clothing manufacturing chain, and the real production zone and business center is the outskirts of naples. everything that is impossible to do elsewhere because of the inflexibility of contracts, laws, and copyrights is feasible here, just north of the city. structured around the entrepreneurial power of the clans, the area produces astronomical capital, amounts unimaginable for any legal industrial conglomeration. the interrelated textile, leatherworking, and shoe manufacturing activities set up by the clans produce garments and accessories identical to those of the principal italian fashion houses
The workforce in clan operations is highly skilled, with decades of experience under italy's and europe's most important designers. the same hands that once worked under the table for the big labels now work for the clans. not only is the workmanship perfect, but the materials are exactly the same, either bought directly on the chinese market or sent by the designer labels to the underground factories participating in the auctions. which means that the clothes made by the clans aren't the typical counterfeit goods, cheap imitations, or copies passed off as the real thing, but rather a sort of true fake. all that's missing is the final step: the brand name, the official authorization of the motherhouse. but the clans usurp that authorization without bothering to ask anybody's permission. besides, what clients anywhere in the world are really interested in is quality and design. and the clans provide just that—brand as well as quality—so there really is no difference. the secondigliano clans have acquired entire retail chains, thus spreading their commercial network across the globe and dominating the international clothing market. they also provide distribution to outlet stores. products of slightly inferior quality have yet another venue: african street vendors and market stalls. nothing goes unused. from factory to store, from retailer to distributor, hundreds of companies and thousands of employees are elbowing each other to get in on the garment business run by the secondigliano clans
Everything is coordinated and managed by the directory. i hear the term constantly—every time bar talk turns to business, or in the usual complaints about not having work: 'it's the directory that wanted it that way.' 'the directory better get busy and start doing things on a bigger scale.' they sound like snippets of conversation in postrevolutionary france, when the collective governing body was napoléon's directoire. 'directory' is the name the magistrates at the naples dda—the district anti-mafia directorate—gave to the economic, financial, and operative structure of a group of businessmen and camorra family bosses in north naples. a structure with a purely economic role. the directory, and not the hit men or firing squads, represents the organization's real power
The clans affiliated with the secondigliano alliance—the licciardi, contini, mallardo, lo russo, bocchetti, stabile, prestieri, and bosti families, as well as the more autonomous sarno and di lauro families—make up the directory, whose territory includes secondigliano, scampia, piscinola, chiaiano, miano, san pietro a patierno, as well as giugliano and ponticelli. as the directory's federal structure offered greater autonomy to the clans, the more organic structure of the alliance ultimately crumbled. the directory's production board included businessmen from casoria, arzano, and melito, who ran companies such as valent, vip moda, vocos, and vitec, makers of imitation valentino, ferré, versace, and armani sold all over the world. a 2004 inquiry, coordinated by naples dda prosecutor filippo beatrice, uncovered the camorra's vast economic empire. it all started with a small detail, one of those little things that could have passed unnoticed: a clothing store in chemnitz, germany, hired a secondigliano boss. a rather unusual choice. it turned out he actually owned the store, which was registered under a false name. from this lead, followed by wiretaps and state witnesses, the naples dda reconstructed each link in the secondigliano clans' production and commercial chain
They set up shop everywhere. in germany they had stores and warehouses in hamburg, dortmund, and frankfurt, and in berlin there were two laudano shops. in spain they were in barcelona and madrid; in brussels; in vienna; and in portugal in oporto and boavista. they had a jacket shop in london and stores in dublin, amsterdam, finland, denmark, sarajevo, and belgrade. the secondigliano clans also crossed the atlantic, investing in canada, the united states, even in south america. the american network was immense; millions of jeans were sold in shops in new york, miami beach, new jersey, and chicago, and they virtually monopolized the market in florida. american retailers and shopping-center owners wanted to deal exclusively with secondigliano brokers; haute couture garments from big-name designers at reasonable prices meant that crowds of customers would flock to their shopping centers and malls. the names on the labels were perfect
A matrix for printing versace's signature medusa's head was found in a lab on the outskirts of naples. in secondigliano word spread that the american market was dominated by directory clothes, making it easier for young people eager to go to america and become salespeople. they were inspired by the success of vip moda, whose jeans filled texas stores, where they were passed off as valentino
Business spread to the southern hemisphere as well. a boutique in five dock, new south wales, became one of australia's hottest addresses for elegant clothing, and there were also shops and warehouses in sydney. the secondigliano clans dominated the clothing market in brazil—in rio de janeiro and são paulo. they had plans to open a store for american and european tourists in cuba, and they'd been investing in saudi arabia and north africa for a while. the distribution mechanism the directory had put in place was based on warehouses—that's how they're referred to in the wiretappings—veritable clearing stations for people and merchandise, depots for every kind of clothing. the warehouses were the center of a commercial hub, the place where agents picked up the merchandise to be distributed to the clans' stores or other retailers. it was an old concept, that of the magliari, the neapolitan traveling salesmen; after the second world war they invaded half the planet, eating up the miles lugging their bags stuffed with socks, shirts, and jackets. applying their age-old mercantile experience on a larger scale, the magliari became full-fledged commercial agents who could sell anywhere and everywhere, from neighborhood markets to malls, from parking lots to gas stations. the best of them made a qualitative leap, selling large lots of clothing directly to retailers. according to investigations, some businessmen organized the distribution of fakes, offering logistical support to the sales reps, the magliari. they paid travel and hotel expenses in advance, provided vans and cars, and guaranteed legal assistance in the case of arrest or confiscation of merchandise. and of course they pocketed the earnings. a business with an annual turnover of about 300 million euros per family
The italian labels started to protest against the secondigliano cartels' huge fake market only after the dda uncovered the entire operation. before that, they had no plans for a negative publicity campaign, never filed charges, or divulged to the press the harmful workings of the illegal production. it is difficult to comprehend why the brands never took a stand against the clans, but there are probably many reasons. denouncing them would have meant forgoing once and for all their cheap labor sources in campania and puglia. the clans would have closed down access to the clothing factories around naples and hindered relations with those in eastern europe and asia. and given the vast number of shopping centers operated directly by the clans, denouncing them would have jeopardized thousands of retail sales contacts. in many places the families handle transportation and agents, so fingering them would have meant a sudden rise in distribution costs. besides, the clans weren't ruining the brands' image, but simply taking advantage of their advertising and symbolic charisma. the garments they turned out were not inferior and didn't disgrace the brands' quality or design image. not only did the clans not create any symbolic competition with the designer labels, they actually helped promote products whose market price made them prohibitive to the general public. in short, the clans were promoting the brand. if hardly anyone wears a label's clothes, if they're seen only on live mannequins on the runway, the market slowly dies and the prestige of the name declines. what's more, the neapolitan factories produced counterfeit garments in sizes that the designer labels, for the sake of their image, do not make. but the clans certainly weren't going to trouble themselves about image when there was a profit to be made. through the true fake business and income from drug trafficking, the secondigliano clans acquired stores and shopping centers where genuine articles were increasingly mixed in with the fakes, thus erasing any distinction. in a way the system sustained the legal fashion empire in a moment of crisis; by taking advantage of sharply rising prices, it continued to promote italian-made goods throughout the world, earning exponential sums
The secondigliano clans realized that their vast international distribution and sales network was their greatest asset, even stronger than drug trafficking. narcotics and clothing often moved along the same routes. the system's entrepreneurial energies were also invested in technology, however. investigations in 2004 revealed that the clans use their commercial networks to import chinese high-tech products for european distribution. europe had the form—the brand, the fame, and the advertising—and china the content—the actual product, cheap labor, and inexpensive materials. the system brought the two together, winning out all around. aware that the economy was on the brink, the clans targeted chinese industrial zones already manufacturing for big western companies; in this they followed the pattern of businesses that first invested in southern italy's urban sprawl and then gradually shifted to china. they got the idea of ordering batches of high-tech products to resell on the european market, obviously with a fake brand name that would increase desirability. but they were cautious; as with a batch of cocaine, they first tested the quality of the products the chinese factories sold them. after confirming their market validity, they launched one of the most prosperous intercontinental dealings in criminal history. digital cameras, video cameras, and power tools: drills, grinders, pneumatic hammers, planes, and sanders, all marketed as bosch, hammer, or hilti. when the secondigliano boss paolo di lauro started doing business with china, he was ten years ahead of the initiative of confindustria, the italian manufacturers' association, to improve business ties with asia. the di lauro clan sold thousands of canons and hitachis on the east european market. thanks to camorra imports, items that were once the prerogative of the upper-middle class were now accessible to a broader public. to guarantee a stronger entry into the market, the clans offered practically the identical product, slapping the brand name on at the end
The di lauro and contini clans' investment in china, which was the focus of a 2004 naples dda inquiry, demonstrates the entrepreneurial farsightedness of the bosses. the era of big business was finished and the criminal conglomerates had crumbled as a result. the nuova camorra organizzata or new organized camorra, established by raffaele cutolo in the 1980s, had been a sort of enormous company, a centralized conglomerate. it was followed by la nuova famiglia or new family, which carmine alfieri and antonio bardellino operated as a federal structure of economically autonomous families united by common interests. but this too proved unwieldy
The flexibility of today's economy has permitted small groups of manager bosses operating in hundreds of enterprises in well-defined sectors to control the social and financial arenas. there is now a horizontal structure—much more flexible than cosa nostra, and much more permeable to new alliances than the calabrian 'ndrangheta—that draws constantly on new clans, and adopts new strategies in entering cutting-edge markets. dozens of police operations in recent years have revealed that both the sicilian mafia and the 'ndrangheta needed to go through the neapolitan clans to purchase big drug lots. the naples and campania cartels were supplying cocaine and heroin at good prices, so buying from them often proved easier and more economical than buying directly from south american and albanian dealers
The restructuring of the clans notwithstanding, the camorra is the most solid criminal organization in europe in terms of membership. for every sicilian mafioso there are five camorristi, eight for every 'ndranghetista. three to four times as many members as the other organizations. the constant spotlight on cosa nostra and the obsessive attention to mafia bombs have provided the perfect media distraction for the camorra, which has remained practically unknown. with the post-fordist restructuring, the naples clans have stopped giving handouts to the masses, and the rise in petty crime in the city can be explained by this curtailing of stipends. camorra groups no longer need to maintain widespread military-style control—or at least not always—because their principal business activities now take place outside naples
Investigations conducted by the naples anti-mafia prosecutor reveal that the camorra's flexible, federalist structure has completely transformed the fabric of the families: instead of diplomatic alliances and stable pacts, clans now operate more like business committees. the camorra's flexibility reflects its need to move capital, set up and liquidate companies, circulate money, and invest quickly in real estate without geographical restrictions or heavy dependence on political mediation. the clans no longer need to organize in large bodies. these days a group of people can decide to band together, rob, smash store windows, and steal without risking being killed or taken over by the clan. the gangs rampaging around naples are not composed exclusively of individuals who commit crimes to pad their wallets, buy fancy cars, or live in luxury. they know that by joining forces and increasing the degree and amount of violence, they can often improve their economic capacity, becoming interlocutors for the clans. the camorra is made up of groups that suck like voracious lice, hindering all economic development, and others that operate as instant innovators, pushing their businesses to new heights of development and trade. caught between these two opposing yet complementary movements, the skin of the city is lacerated and torn. in naples cruelty is the most complex and affordable strategy for becoming a successful businessman. the air of the city smells like war, you can breathe it through every pore; it has the rancid odor of sweat, and the streets have become open-air gyms for training to ransack, plunder, and steal, for exercising the gymnastics of power, and the spinning of economic growth
In the urban outskirts the system has expanded, rising like bread dough. local and regional governments thought they could oppose the system by not doing business with the clans. but that wasn't enough. they underrated the power of the families and neglected the phenomenon, considering it an aspect of urban blight. as a result campania is now the italian region with the highest number of cities under observation for camorra infiltration. a total of seventy-one municipal administrations have been dissolved since 1991. an extraordinary number, far surpassing that in the other regions of italy: forty-four in sicily, thirty-four in calabria, seven in puglia. in the province of naples alone, town councils have been dissolved in pozzuoli, quarto, marano, melito, portici, ottaviano, san giuseppe vesuviano, san gennaro vesuviano, terzigno, calandrino, sant' antimo, tufino, crispano, casamarciano, nola, liveri, boscoreale, poggiomarino, pompei, ercolano, pimonte, casola di napoli, sant' antonio abate, santa maria la carità, torre annunziata, torre del greco, volla, brusciano, acerra, casoria, pomigliano d' arco, and frattamaggiore. only nine of the ninety-two municipalities in the province of naples have never had external commissioners, inquiries, or monitoring. clan businesses have determined zoning regulations, infiltrated local sanitation services, purchased land immediately prior to its being zoned for building and then subcontracted the construction of shopping centers, and imposed patron saints' days festivities that depend on their multiservice companies, from catering to cleaning, from transportation to trash collection
Never in the economy of a region has there been such a widespread, crushing criminal presence as in campania in the last ten years. unlike the sicilian mafia groups, the camorra clans don't need politicians; it's the politicians who need the system. in campania a deliberate strategy leaves the political structures that are most visible, those under media scrutiny, formally immune to connivances and contiguities. but in the countryside, in the towns where the clans need armed protection and cover for fugitives, and where their economic maneuvers are more exposed, alliances between politicians and camorra families are tighter. camorra clans rise to power through their commercial empires. and that allows them to control everything else
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The business-criminal transformation of the suburbs of secondigliano and scampia was crafted by the licciardi family, whose center of operations at masseria cardone is practically impregnable. the boss gennaro licciardi, known as 'a scigna—la scimmia, the monkey—for his striking resemblance to a gorilla or an orangutan, initiated the metamorphosis. in the late 1980s licciardi was the secondigliano lieutenant to liugi giuliano, the boss of forcella, an area in the heart of naples. the outskirts were considered an awful place—a territory without stores or shopping centers, on the margins of every kind of wealth, where not even the leeches could extort enough cuts to feed themselves on. but licciardi realized the area could become a hub for drug sales, a free port for transportation, and a collection point for cheap labor. a place that would soon be sprouting the scaffolding of new construction as the city expanded. gennaro licciardi did not succeed in fully implementing his strategy. he died at thirty-eight, in prison, of an incredibly banal umbilical hernia—a pathetic end for a boss. especially because he'd once been involved in a brawl with members of the two big camorra fronts, the nuova camorra organizzata and the nuova famiglia, while awaiting a hearing in the naples courthouse lockup. he was stabbed sixteen times, all over his body. but he'd come out alive
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