Mafia has a broader meaning than just the Italian-American gangs many people associate with the term. Some define it as a criminal group that uses the protection racket as its prime means of raising funds, others any gang that follows in the influential footsteps of the original Sicilian bad guys, mixing criminal activity and political influence through corruption, bribery and intimidation. A mafia will certainly be organized too, almost a shadow state with its codes of conduct, oaths and hierarchies.
It’s common now to hear of, say, the Russian Mafia, and many gangs are keen to use the name as a hat tip to the most influential organized criminals in history.
Here are 10 stories that might have you worrying about the ruthlessness and reach of these crooks, whatever their name might be.
1 – The gangster who was minced and eaten for lunch
The Serbian Mafia has a particularly fearsome reputation. This is partly because of their country’s bloody birth in the brutal wars that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart after the fall of Soviet communism and brought the horrors of ethnic-cleansing and even the specter of genocide back to the Europe.
Organized crime pre-dates the wars of course, but both the wars and the sanctions against Serbia provided a perfect backdrop for chaos, violence, the widespread availability of weapons, the spreading of corruption into official government channels and the rise of ultra-nationalism.
In 2003, the Serbian Mafia was worried about the reformist ambitions of the new head of state and assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.
One of the men probably involved in that crime came to a nasty end himself. Milan Jurisic was killed in 2009. The execution itself wasn’t that gross – they smashed him up with a hammer – but then his killers minced up his body, ate it for lunch and made a mask out of the skin of his face.
The man who did it, Sretko Kalinic, has the appropriate nickname of “The Butcher” and his story seems to be true – police in Madrid are searching for what traces they can find.
Jurisic’s death – which took five days to clean up after – is probably down to that favorite mafia pastime, the bloody internal feud. He’s believed to have fallen out with Luka Bojovic, the leader of the Zemun Clan, possibly over a woman.
Mafia rule number one – keep your eye off the boss’s lady.