Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Unsavory Knox & Sollecito Chums Are Taking Quite A Beating

Posted by Peter Quennell

Fine Australian report praised by Italian viewers (scroll down)

1. Italian Developments

The video report on a mass trial in southern Italy could be good news.

That is if there is to be more exposure of the nefariousness in Meredith’s case. And of how way too much of the American media and the political administrations were led around by the nose, by these guys intent on taking Italian justice down a peg.

Not that Italian media have been exactly shy though. Few in Italy believe all was above board - in the selection of Judge Hellman and his “independent” consultants, in the final sentence issued in 2015 by the Supreme Court, and in Knox’s “not guilty” verdict in the Florence calunnia trial.

Everybody knows of the Sollecito family’s blood ties in the deep south and in Canada, though those have mostly dwindled since the assassination of Canadian mafia kingpin Uncle Rocco in Montreal in 2016.

Calabria is in the deep south of Italy, across the Strait of Messina from Sicily. Several thousand years ago, those were among the wealthiest areas in the world. Agriculture flourished back then, and the south was a major waypoint for cargo traffic making its way along the Mediterranean.

The remorseless decline of the deep south was first set in motion by climate change, and by piracy from bases in countries further to the east. Lawless gangs emerged after the 19th century uprisings against royalty.

The mafia big three families have long been considered Cosa Nostra (Sicily), Camorra (Naples) and Ndrangheta (Calabria). All three had connections with Meredith’s case.

The Ndrangheta was infiltrating the Perugia area around the time that Meredith died. Knox’s and Sollecito’s lead lawyers had represented mafia previously. Appeal judge Hellman was assigned in suspect circumstances. Sollecito was suspected of seeking help from the Canadian arm of the Ndrangheta. Both of the lead Supreme Court judges were from Naples and subjects of whispers. The judge in Knox’s second calunnia trial was transferred to Florence from the Ndrangheta area due to suspect friendships. A pro-prosecution witness had been a Camorra member. Perugia prosecutors and judges sometimes have a role in mafia cases. Perugia saw a mafia mass-arrest. One of the lead investigators transferred to Rome to head anti-mafia investigations.   

Sicily’s Cosa Nostra was mostly responsible for the assassination of over 100 judges, prosecutors and others in law enforcement through the 1990s, at which time the kingpin was put away and the first several of various mass trials put away additional hundreds. It then faded, and the Ndrangheta mushroomed.

The current Ndrangheta mass trial in western Calabria is of the Mancuso clan, the west-coast segment of the Ndrangheta, which because of a seaport built in the 1990s is definitely the most significant. The trial will conclude in a few months - many took the short-form trial (in effect they pleaded guilty) but over 300 didn’t. 

Does this suggest the last of the big Italian mafia families is finally on the ropes and of diminishing significance? Maybe; maybe not. As the Australian video explains, for many in the area, the Ndrangheta remains more popular than the government, because they make sure to provide more services.

But certainly by global standards they are not such big-fry. Russian, Japanese and Mexican crime families are estimated to be larger, both in membership and turnover. But the Ndrangheta is still big in European cocaine, and has bought a collection of conventional businesses.

Italian law enforcement has developed a number of admired and emulated techniques to diminish their crime families. One is to isolate members from one another and from other prisoners, in prison conditions that by Italian standards are not too nice.

Even at the peaks of these crime families, reported crime rates in Italy, murder or otherwise, have steadily remained below 1/5 of the American rates. Italian law enforcement is brave, and their systems are good models.

2. Canadian Developments

Mobster Dominico Scarfo has been on trial for the shooting of Rocco Sollecito at a traffic light in Montreal in May 2016, and for a related killing.

Rocco Sollecito had been the de facto head of the Rizutto crime family, which was very closely associated with the Italian Ndrangheta. Raffaele Sollecito met with him several times in 2012 and 2014 in a mob-controlled town at the east end of the Dominican Republic island.

Scarfo was found guilty of both killings in April. This is a report on the trial outcome from the Montreal Gazette.

The jury also found Scarfo, 49, guilty of conspiring to kill both men.

The trial began in late January, and the jury deliberated for 19 days — one of the longest deliberations in Canadian history — before reaching unanimous decisions on all four charges. The record for the longest deliberation is 28 days.

“In the name of us all, and in the name of the community you served as judges, I want to thank you for your services. All good things must have an end though,” Superior Court Justice Michel Pennou told the 10 jurors who remained on the panel at the trial’s end.

The prosecution faced an uphill battle as its key witness, an informant, initially refused to testify when he was first called to the stand in February.

“No. I won’t be answering any questions,” the informant told prosecutor Isabelle Poulin after she asked her first question.

“F—ing me over is f—ing everybody over. It ain’t happening,” the informant said back in February while complaining that his contract with the Sûreté du Québec was not being respected.

He eventually settled down and testified at length, despite several outbursts throughout.

With the first-degree murder verdicts, Scarfo automatically received a life sentence with a period of parole ineligibility fixed at 25 years. Pennou said he will hear sentencing arguments on the conspiracy charges at a later date….

Scarfo is said to have collaborated with, among others in the Canadian mob, a “deceased crime boss”.

Hmmm…  Rocco Sollecito’s predecessor Nicolo Rizutto was gunned down in his house by a long-distance sniper.

Rocco has been widely presumed to have been behind that, and although said to have been a guy quite easy to get along with, some in the mob may have remained loyal to the previous boss.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/05/22 at 08:08 PM in

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Via this link to Wikipedia you can see that the FBI may consider the Rizutto family a part of New York’s Bonanno crime family which originated in Sicily.

https://tinyurl.com/yzmwdnnk

The current head of the Bonanno family is Michael “The Nose” Mancuso, who is right now out on bail for associating with some of his underlings.

https://tinyurl.com/4jdwc242

This Mancuso is a relative of Luigi Mancuso, the head of the wealthy Mancuso mafia family now on trial in Italy as described above and current top godfather of Italian mafias. For practical purposes the Rizutto family and the Ndrangheta seem the same thing.

By the way, chat in New York about the mafias fell off a cliff around 20 years ago after the flamboyant John Gotti was put away. Tourists seem to know more about the NYC mafias of the last century than the locals do.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/06/22 at 08:34 PM | #

If you follow the links just above you’ll see that both Luigi Mancuso and Michael Mancuso seem to spend more time in prison than outside. An odd choice.

Both seem to try to run their crime families from inside. Michael Mancuso was reclusive when he came out of court here in New York. He might fear his days could be numbered because some may fear he could sell them out.

The video report at top is praised by Italians in comments for describing the local costs of having these guys around. What reputable investor would want to sink real money into circumstances like that? And yet the south has so much potential for tourism and agriculture.

The billions talked about (at least half of which end up in Mexico and Columbia for the cocaine supply) are nothing compared to that. The billions don’t really improve the lives of anyone in the area because the money cannot be ostentatiously spent. All very odd.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/07/22 at 08:43 AM | #

Sorry, not all doom & gloom! The video at the top reveals that many in the area are publicly out of their shells and the younger generations want to move on.

It also describes how the Ndrangheta has provided more services than “the government” does.

So the first order of business should really be to group-group-group. Everybody pooling their strengths in a development movement, learning from one another, and putting new systems in place.

That is from 1970 what the UN Development System was meant to be about, although in recent years the incompetent layer of political appointees at the top has done more harm than the mafias ever did.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/07/22 at 09:18 AM | #

So the UK’s PM Boris Johnson resigns.

Maybe the biggest nail in his coffin was that he did not know how to level up those depressed areas of the UK that do not normally vote for his party but thought Brexit would do the trick.

The UK media gave him hell for that.

What would have actually done the trick is summarized in the comment directly above. Any new leader will hopefully have a clue about that.

Of course, there was nothing to stop the UK doing that while it was still in the EC. It could have done all of the EC a power of good.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/07/22 at 11:00 AM | #

“The UK media gave him hell for that.”

The gang from the South Asia, once upon a time learnt politics from the same masters, are now better in the game. They have all the patience on their side. UK press is mouthshut but all eyes and ears on them.

What do you say?

Posted by chami on 07/10/22 at 02:52 AM | #

Haha! Chami refers to those in the UK Conservative Party running for Prime Minister who are originally from south Asia.

Braveman, Sunak, Javid, Zahawi, Patel. Maybe others?

For myself, I watch all contemporary politics cynically from the sidelines because of the present short-termism, corruption, lack of dynamism and polarization, while systems ossify and inequalities grow, and problems fester.

Objectively, studies show that a bit more growth and system development happens under moderate left-wing parties because they dont all pander to the super-rich or regard all systems as having been cast in stone a couple of hundred years ago.

South Asians I worked with may or may not resemble any of those right-wing ones listed. But they generally stood out for some useful qualities - leading from behind, consensus building, a tendency given the chance to do good system building. They made good UN consultants.

However, are several of those five the equivalent of Blacks in the Republican Party? There because of a form of groveling to the cucumber-sandwich crowd rather than because of a development mindset? Holier than the Pope, as it were?

Early days yet. Advise us Chami!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/10/22 at 08:59 AM | #

“Objectively, studies show that a bit more growth and system development happens under moderate left-wing parties because they dont all pander to the super-rich or regard all systems as having been cast in stone a couple of hundred years ago.”

Absolutely.

But see, all of them have rather modest start in life. And I would have thought them to be rather left-leaning.

I love your cucumber-sandwich analogy.

Posted by chami on 07/10/22 at 10:03 PM | #

“But see, all of them have rather modest start in life. And I would have thought them to be rather left-leaning.”

I suggest that there is a small picture, a bigger picture, and a very big picture in play. Apply weighting according to taste.

The small picture is simply that they believe (or want others to believe) that, despite their modest backgrounds, they worked very hard from school onward, and lifted themselves up by their own bootstraps, to make it through Oxford or Cambridge to successful careers.

And if only all the Brits got off their “bums” they could do the same; and thus the whole economy would surge forward.

Usually discounted - a bait and switch - is just how much welfare-state help they got along the way, to educate themselves, and keep them well, and keep them safe and supplied with goods.

Welfare states are mostly boosted by the left, and mostly streamlined by the right. UK austerity has taken a big toll. Most successful European economies now have bigger welfare states. Higher-performance people result.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/11/22 at 10:43 AM | #

The medium picture is one that Chami may know something about close-up.

Many or most south Asians (and Arabs and Africans and West Indians) in the UK and Europe generally are not at all typical of the populations they came from.

They are the lingering symptoms of the insidious Colonial Divide-and-Rule.

I guess everybody here knows how that worked, so for the record: a few colonial administrators from a few European countries could never hope to stay on top of the enormous colonial world.

So they divided-off and corrupted minorities to help with the dirty work and elevated them to near the top. Usually these were fine impressive highly intelligent ethnic groups, who had always worked hard and kept their heads down, and were in general rather meek.

The colonial powers transported some of those south Asians to African countries to serve the same function there. After colonial independence, many of these displaced minorities had to be allowed to settle in Europe to save their lives.

So why are the Braverman, Sunak, Javid, Zahawi, and Patel families in the UK? Because of this? Because the colonial administrators invited them into the cucumber-sandwich crowd? This history would tilt them toward that crowd.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/11/22 at 11:08 AM | #

The third and biggest picture? It’s of why the performance of the UK and so many other “advanced” economies are sub-par and why imposters like Boris and maybe those five south Asians get to the top.

Same mantra as so often here. All growth & development is of systems (justice systems not least) and, with the help of the American Deming in the 1950’s, Japan showed the way. Then in the 80s and 90s all the other fast-growth Asian countries adopted that model and saw success.

Luckily, in Asia, very few lawyers and economists and other “quants” were involved and intent on heading the parade, which is what we largely see in the US and UK and EC now. In Asia systems guys still rule.

Meanwhile under the lawyers and quants the UK and EC and much of the US muddled around. They should have moved up to the next rungs on the ladder, but didn’t. In fact, there was some leveling down (google “race to the bottom”), part of the result of which was Trump.

Development of the UK midlands should be an easy task, but those who knew how to do it have been misunderstood, or ignored, or displaced by the lawyers and quants. 

Under this concept, as Chami rightly suspects, Braverman, Sunak, Javid, Zahawi, and Patel are all the wrong horses for the course. Braverman is a lawyer, and the other four are all quants.

Argh!!!

By the way, I believe NYC could do much more, be a much-needed global development dynamo. Okay, NYC is full of quants, global stocks & currencies are partly controlled from here and it created the 2008 collapse.

But NYC also has far more bodies controlling or overseeing systems and their upgrades (UN, banks, stockmarkets, corporations, universities, media and publishing) than anywhere else.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/11/22 at 11:52 AM | #

Breaking news. Backbencher (and lawyer) Rehman Chishti of Pakistan origin has just announced. Priti Patel is not yet firm. Sunak might be the Brexit camp’s top choice.

Remain-in-the-EC favourer Jeremy Hunt nearly won against Boris for PM several years ago; he has a business systems background and as a result is the cabinet’s wealthiest guy.

The group of a possible 18 may rapidly be boiled down to just two. And if an election was to be held today, polls suggest Labor would win.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/11/22 at 02:30 PM | #

More UK pm news. Eight are on the shortlist. Each needs 30 endorsements tomorrow to stay afloat.

Women: Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss.

Men:  Jeremy Hunt, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat, Nadhim Zahawi

Quants & lawyers:  Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi

Systems background: Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Tom Tugendhat

Four are from immigrant families: Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/12/22 at 02:06 PM | #

The betfair bookie site ( https://tinyurl.com/2p99mxak ) offers odds for dozens of MPs. Very interesting. Some names that are well-known are quite far down in the odds, Priti Patel for example.

This for the moment is the betting order of the top eight. Odds are changing almost minute by minute. Odds for the top three remain closely clustered. Those in bold have gained in the past 30 minutes. 

Rishi Sunak
Penny Mordaunt 
Liz Truss
Kemi Badenoch
Tom Tugendhat
Jeremy Hunt
Suella Braverman
Nadhim Zahawi.

Update. At 9:00 pm London time Penny Mordaunt is now number one.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/12/22 at 03:59 PM | #

According to the BBC, see https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-60037657

Penny and Rishi are tied as on Jul 12; 5 Sept is long time in politics. As per the BBC chart, Penny Morduant is doing consistently during the last four days: consistency does matter.

Rishi was tasked to manage the nations wealth but he did mess up his own: a double minus goes there.

Posted by chami on 07/12/22 at 10:15 PM | #

Chami:  “5 Sept is long time in politics.”

Sure is!! The excellent BBC world-news channel we all watch here has had on some past leadership warriors saying the process is brutal behind the scenes. All manner of bribing and backstabbing goes on!

At this minute the bookies have Penny Mordaunt’s odds at 1.85 to 1 and Rishi Sunak’s at 4.3 to 1.

Almost certainly by the weekend they will be the only two, performing for the next seven weeks in front of the 175,000 Conservative Party members whose vote will decide. 

Chami is right; Rishi did not manage the economy well. But it was never going to be easy, for anyone: the UK has sub-zero growth if we take into account the slow tanking of the pound.

It’s either higher taxes (which will hurt growth) or cut the welfare state (which will also hurt growth). Rishi chose higher taxes.

OR take the third way, as described in comments above: lock the economists and other quants in the backrooms, and start a highly bankable program of systems upgrades.

Penny Mordaunt (who was not on my radar till a few days ago) has a strong systems background. Rishi Sunak is a quant. In fact Penny Mordaunt has a stronger systems background (see the bio on Wikipedia) than any UK leader I can recall.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/22 at 10:07 AM | #

The UK pound was worth $2.00 in 2008. It is now worth less than $1.30.

If the financial markets read Penny Mordaunt correctly, the pound should soon start to rise.

It may not even wait to the final vote in September. Watch this space.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/22 at 10:29 AM | #

Several hours later, Hunt and Zahawi are announced as out, now leaving six.

The bookies say Mordaunt is more up and Sunak more down though still Number Two. A “bathtub effect”? Every MP wanting to get this vote right so they may have a shot at the cabinet jobs?

Good grief! Sunak may have to spend the next six weeks making pitches at the party hustings while knowing he cannot win! 

And speak of the devil: the pound has already spiked a bit against the dollar already today.

Mordaunt adding billions to the UK’s net worth?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/22 at 12:23 PM | #

Thursday, UK PM race again as enhanced systems including justice systems seem the must-win for the UK if it is to escape negative growth.

(What investors judge as weak systems is reflected in the pound sinking 1/3 against the US$ since 2009. Brexit still seems to me overrated as a step forward, as the EC was overrated as holding the UK back; other EC countries had seen up to 6 percent growth prior to Ukraine.)

This is 1/2 of all BBC America is offering us, and as leadership change systems go this is gripping for sure.

Today’s votes by Conservative MPs for the remaining six were: Sunak 101, Mordaunt 83, Truss 64, Badenoch 47, and Tugendhat 32. Braverman at 27 is out.

After the first round of voting Sunak had 33% more votes than Mordaunt. This time 25%.

Mordaunt is likely in the final two. A new YouGov poll puts her ahead of Sunak with the estimated 250,000 in the party who decide.

Only two weeks ago, only Sunak and Truss had any visibility in the US, and both were tied to Boris, who was not looking on top of things here.

Looking at Mordaunt’s various past assignments, the public record suggests consistent competence, attention to detail, and popularity with those she worked with. Only a Lord Frost differs, and his own past record and agenda seem questionable. 

Mordaunt does have something of a background of hands-on systems management & improvement, something the UK could use. A more useful background now than journalism or investment or law, the background of other candidates and Boris.

I don’t yet see why she was strongly pro-Brexit, back to YouTube for that.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/14/22 at 11:14 AM | #

Her Brexit YouTubes are not really revealing. Mordaunt seems to be following scripts. She did have two odd arguments.

1) That the EC is not accountable. But it is. The UK had a commissioner, and UK nationals sprinkled throughout all structures, and a UK delegation of European MPs.

2) That this would improve UK defense because national militaries coordinate better one to one. But the UK remains in NATO, so this point is sort of lost. 

The onetime Brexit negotiator Lord Frost who just tried to bring her down a peg actually resigned because Boris was not extreme enough. Mordaunt also thought Frost to be too extreme and causing the UK to get a poor deal. Frost is dumping on Mordaunt for the poor deal HE achieved. Had she been chief negotiator the UK would be better off.

Correction. It turns out YouTube was the wrong place to look. She has co-written a book,  “Greater: Britain After The Storm” which came out last year.

I dont have it yet but take a look the the five-star reviews here.  https://tinyurl.com/bdk5k76w

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/14/22 at 08:23 PM | #

Boris chum Liz Truss has overtaken Sunak in the bookmakers’ odds, and has the support of some of the European Research Group MPs. It could be Mordant v Truss debating over the next few weeks. Among the party members who will vote in September she did not poll too well the other day.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/14/22 at 08:29 PM | #

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