Report. It’s not easy to run a business and restore legality to agromafia territory, even if you’re a state-appointed judicial administrator. This has emerged from the most famous Mafia case at the Court of Latina, the “Damasco” trial against the criminal networks in Fondi.

Fruits, vegetables and drugs: Inside Italy’s criminal logistics trade

In the South Pontino region, mafias and business deals, omertà and exploitation, denialism and excellent plausible deniability form the perfect unholy mix that governs the territory.

CPA Massimo Elesio Giordano learned this firsthand, not knowing that it’s not possible for the state to do anything in Fondi or with the Fruit and Vegetable Market there without the permission of mafia boss Giuseppe D’Alterio, nicknamed Peppe ‘o marocchino (Pepe the Moroccan). D’Alterio has been in and out of prison for around 25 years for his relations with the Casalesi clan, which have afforded him exclusive control over the road transport in Pontino, both for fruit and vegetable transport and drug trafficking.

In September 2018, Giordano was appointed judicial administrator of La Suprema SRL, the transport company formerly belonging to D’Alterio, and he went on to contact some local operators to keep the company’s activities going while under judicial seizure, in order to give employees and clients continuity and to make the presence of the state visible.

However, it became obvious that some of the “big shots” of local politics were unwilling to support this initiative in the slightest, starting from Senator Claudio Fazzone of Forza Italia and the Fratelli d’Italia MEP Nicola Procaccini. After only four months of activity, Giordano has been forced to give up this project. A scorched earth policy has been pursued to isolate him. It is not an easy task to run a business and restore legality in such an environment, and it’s not enough to represent the authority of the state.

In February 2019, the only carrier that had agreed to collaborate with Giordano, Vincenzo Marzocchi of Trans Logistics, sent a notice that the situation no longer permitted the continuation of their relationship. Marzocchi had changed his mind due to the climate marked by the still-heavy influence of Giuseppe D’Alterio, whose extensive criminal activities are described in the latest preventive detention order signed by the Rome Prosecutor’s Office against him and his associates: Giovanni and Luigi D’Alterio, Crescenzo Pinto, Anna Milazzo—D’Alterio’s wife—and Domenico Di Russo.

D’Alterio’s wife has already created a new company, Anna Trasporti. At the same time, all of its competition was systematically eliminated, employing the usual mafia tactics: according to the prosecutors’ report, the suspects “have brought to bear the criminal weight of the D’Alterio family.” Pepe the Moroccan has been repeatedly caught transporting drugs along with fruit and vegetables, confirming that road transport is one of the main avenues through which drugs are imported from Spain through the province of Latina.

So far, the only one who has been able to stand up to D’Alterio is another criminal figure: Renato Pugliese, a now-repentant member of the Di Silvio clan from Latina, the son of boss Costantino Di Silvio, nicknamed “Cha Cha.” Di Silvio, who ended up in prison for the part he played in the extortion network in the capital of the Pontina region, is notable for his close friendship with Pasquale Maietta, a former deputy of Fratelli d’Italia, who was himself arrested in Operation Arpalo—part of the case of the laundering of money at the Latina Calcio soccer club, which was funneled to Switzerland—and because he has been charged in the ensuing trial, still pending before the Court of Latina.

Renato Pugliese, as witness of the public prosecution after he began collaborating with law enforcement, recounted a time when he asked Giuseppe D’Alterio for a kilo of cocaine, but decided not to pay him. It was an unacceptable affront, and the only reason Pugliese didn’t pay dearly for that was because he was the son of Costantino Di Silvio. Anyone else would have been kneecapped or hit by a truck.

All this has emerged from the most famous Mafia case at the Court of Latina, the “Damasco” trial against the criminal networks in Fondi, to which we can add the “La Paganese” investigation that uncovered the agreement between several Italian criminal organizations for the transport of fruit and vegetables in the various wholesale markets and the imposition of prices on carriers, producers and road transport companies.

New aspects of this criminal system have emerged from the latest investigations, starting from the wall of isolation built up around judicial administrator Giordano before he finally had to give up and put the company into liquidation. Anti-competition acts “have been carried out using threats in order to expel from the market the company Suprema SRL, under judicial administration … Using mafia methods, the suspects have prevented the other road haulers, among whom Vincenzo Marzocchi, owner of Trans Logistica srl, from entering into commercial relations with Suprema,” and particularly with the judicial administrator, whom everyone agrees is “a good person, capable and willing to work.”

This campaign had a twofold goal: to prevent Giordano from continuing the business and to give an advantage to the new company of the D’Alterio family, a “clean” one, because it was formally registered in his wife’s name while D’Alterio was in prison in Poggioreale. However, everybody in Fondi and at the Fruit and Vegetable Market knew that it would not be long until D’Alterio was released into house arrest, which would mean serious trouble for anyone who showed themselves “disloyal.” The Marzocchi company stopped collaborating with Giordano on February 11, 2019, just two weeks before Giuseppe D’Alterio was placed into house arrest, and on February 12, 2019, Giordano went to the Rome District Anti-Mafia Unit to report what had taken place, saying that he was about to go to the judge who appointed him and relay a serious event that had happened a few days earlier and of which he had just become aware.

Giordano reported that he was unable to continue his activity because “the company he had relied on to carry out the first trips had been under clear pressure and intimidation so that it would not provide the logistical contribution and means necessary to resume the transport activity interrupted on the day of the judicial seizure and to ensure that no activity would occur.”

“La Suprema” had 15 trucks when the Rome Anti-Mafia Unit obtained warrants for the seizure of the company and the arrest of D’Alterio in September 2018. From that moment, all but one driver disappeared, the secretary no longer showed up for work until she finally resigned, no one at the Fruit and Vegetable Market was willing to cooperate, and even a student called in to interview for an administrative job would eventually turn it down.

When Giordano asked the owner of the only carrier who had been willing to work with him why he had stopped, the only answer he got was: “I have family in Fondi, my company is in Fondi.” From intercepted phone calls, it emerged that D’Alterio was informed about what was going on at the Fruit and Vegetable Market, and that once he got out of jail he intended to get back the routes of the fruit and vegetable trade that had been managed by his family by whatever means necessary. That meant the Fondi-Torino and Fondi-Sardinia routes, but also the route to Calabria and Aprilia. The choice was either to work for D’Alterio or not work at all—to pay an extortionate surcharge of 5 euros per pallet or not have any options for transport.

That is why everyone backed out after the arrival of the representative of the state, Francesco Giordano. The Public Prosecutor of Rome, Michele Prestipino, had anticipated such a situation before signing the request for precautionary measures against D’Alterio and his partners in crime. Less than a month ago, during the hearing in the Anti-Mafia Commission on the Latina case, Prestipino said that the Mafia is regenerating, and that nothing had changed in Fondi since the 2009 investigations. It was a perfect description of the situation, which bears comparison with the absolute silence coming from Forza Italia, the Lega and Fratelli d’Italia in a territory where it’s easier to threaten critical voices than the mafias, with their firepower—both economic and literal—and the local votes they bring.

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