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Mafia ‘code of conduct’ found

Salvatore Lo Piccolo is seen here shortly after his arrest Monday in Sicily. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Salvatore Lo Piccolo is seen here shortly after his arrest Monday in Sicily. Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Tracy Wilkinson Los Angeles Times

ROME – Even mobsters, it seems, must mind their manners.

Police searching the property of a newly arrested Mafia boss say they have found a typewritten code of conduct, a list the Italian media quickly dubbed the mob’s Ten Commandments.

Never look at the wives of your friends, says one rule. Avoid pubs and nightclubs.

Always keep your appointments. And, of course, never be seen with a cop.

Many of the commandments appear aimed at maintaining security and the secrecy for which the Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, is well-known. Others address courteous behavior.

The list of rules was discovered by anti-Mafia police in Sicily who were searching documents and other property seized after the arrest of Salvatore Lo Piccolo, according to Italian media reports from the Sicilian capital of Palermo.

Lo Piccolo, who authorities said was angling to become the Cosa Nostra’s top “boss of bosses,” was arrested on Monday after nearly 15 years on the lam.

The “Rights and Duties” for the exemplary Mafioso was found in a sheaf of papers that Lo Piccolo carried with him at all times, inside a leather briefcase, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.

Italian newspapers published photographs of the purported list.

Also discovered in Lo Piccolo’s documents, the reports said, was a loyalty oath, in which members swear that if they betray the organization, “my flesh must burn.”

Some Mafia experts expressed skepticism about the so-called Ten Commandments, saying it was doubtful Lo Piccolo, or any boss, would actually type out the rules. They wouldn’t have to.

“They all know the rules, and for generations the Mafia has always avoided communicating other than by word of mouth,” said Enrico Bellavia, a Palermo-based journalist who has written books about the Mafia.

If the transcription is suspect, the rules themselves ring true, according to Bellavia. He said the list was like a Cliff’s Notes of a longer, more intricate and tradition-hewn code of proper mob behavior.

Ansa speculated that the list may have been intended in part to rein in certain of the more flamboyant new-generation mobsters who drive Porsches and flaunt their wealth and power. Some older Mafia dons believe attracting that kind of attention is bad for business.

Other rules command that a Mafioso be respectful to his wife. But the code also orders complete loyalty to the Cosa Nostra, saying a Mafioso is always on duty and available, even when the wife is in labor.

In addition, no one can become a member of the Cosa Nostra who has relatives in the police. It is forbidden to steal money from other families within the organization. Members must “hold to moral values.”

However, there’s not a single “Thou shalt not kill” in the bunch.

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