Sicily at end of the 18th Century was characterized by a long history of foreign rule. As consequence, large landowners divided the island. Nevertheless being far away from bigger cities, these families wanted to enjoy a similar lifestyle to there. For this they moved from the central island to Palermo or Napoli. Because of their absence, they installed a private protection force for their property. Often these groups had been let by a tenant (“Gabelloti”), who leased the land from the landowners and rent it to the small local farmers. As Sicily’s legal infrastructure was not efficient, after some time, it was for the original landowners not possible to control the tenants and until the end of the 19th century, they officially became the owners of the land. Sometimes they bought it from the former owners and sometimes they took it by force.
Later these Gabelloti and their armed forces became what we know today as the Sicilian Mafia, which took on additional roles, including middleman, consultant, judge and protector. The Mafia achieved this status on the one hand based on pure violence, but on the other hand also based on traditional values as family, integrity and religion. Two sides of the same medal, which normally are not compatible.
In my second article for LEC (Legal, Ethics, Compliance) Mexico I analyzed the similarities between today’s Compliance and yesterday’s Mafia, what includes values, efficiency, simplicity and group pressure.