"(ANSA) - Police arrested about 100 people in the southern city of Bari and in several northern Italian cities on Tuesday as they smashed a powerful mafia organisation which was run by women.Eight of those arrested were women believed by investigators to have held 'management' positions in the Valentini clan which is based in the town of Bitonto near Bari.The women's first job was to communicate the orders of jailed bosses to the rank-and-file members and then see that they were respected. But after that they acted autonomously and reportedly demonstrated an aptitude for crime in no way inferior to that of the men.Prosecutors accuse them of belonging to a mafia association, a range of drug crimes and extortion.According to investigators, the female bosses also ensured that the families of jailed mafia men received support and paid all legal expenses.They also paid weekly wages to clan members. Drug pushers received 250 euros per week, drug trade organisers 1,000 euros and district mafia chiefs 5,000 euros. When members were arrested it was up to the women to find a new place to keep the clan's arms arsenal.The Valentini clan has been fighting a feud with a rival family in Bitonto for years and has until now managed to stay on top, acquiring considerable influence. Police on Tuesday froze bank accounts connected to the clan and seized businesses, apartments, land and cars worth 25 million euros.The organisation was able to smuggle drugs into prison with relative ease. One of the few times such an operation was intercepted was in 2004 when prison police found a shoe full of cocaine that had been thrown over the wall into the prison courtyard.The feud with the Conte-Cassano family is believed to have produced at least six killings since 2003, although the bodies of the victims have never been found."
It is nice to know that some of my favourite authors will never run out of inspiration as long as real crime in Italy produces such interesting plot lines.
"Never, ever, set up a direct debit in this country. Not unless you've been introduced to both the bank and the billers. Don't ever put a cheque in the post, because you can't tust the post, let alone the postman." [The Dark Heart of Italy: Tobias Jones]