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Italian writer lives in fear of life for Mafia stories.



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RN PM Italian writer lives in fear of life for Mafia stories

02/12/2008

MARK COLVIN: Roberto Saviano is a rich and successful young Italian man. But neither wealth nor fame give him much pleasure because he has to live in fear for his own life.

Roberto Saviano is the author of the best-selling book 'Gomorrah'. He also wrote the screenplay for a film of the same name, which is tipped to collect an Oscar at next year's Academy Awards.

The book is a personal account of life in the Campania region in southern Italy, home to the most brutal of Italy's Mafias, the Camorra.

Roberto Saviano now lives with five police guards and travels with two armoured cars. It's been revealed that the Mafia gangs around Naples want him dead by Christmas.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici met Roberto Saviano at a secret location to record this interview.

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): Everything I know about the threats against my safety, I've uncovered from the supergrass who's told police about my fate. So even this latest news; the informant that revealed the plan to eliminate me before Christmas, to kill me before Christmas, I didn't hear about that first hand, I was told about it by the Anti-Mafia Commission.

EMMA ALBERICI: What is your life like now?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): It's a complicated life because I live with five men. Five police guards and two armed vehicles, so it's difficult, impossible in fact, to live a normal life amongst that.

Your home is never your home, they're always rented; that's when someone will actually rent you a home because for two years in Naples, no one dared even rent me a place, because they say I bring fear into their homes.

EMMA ALBERICI: How supportive is the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of you?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): I have had a kind of institutional support in the sense that the state of Italy, when they learned through an informant of the possible murder attempt, displayed solidarity with me.

It was the most correct response, but it was also a response that they couldn't afford not to provide.

Let's say the state of Italy is a state full of contradictions. The Government on the one hand sends the parachute regiment to the south of Italy, so at least in some way it's attempting to draw attention and do something with respect to the emergency criminal situation which has developed over these past few months.

But on the other hand, the Berlusconi Government has a junior finance minister, Nicola Cosentino, who's been accused by five supergrasses, who say he's tied to the organised crime gangs. That's one of the contradictions I'm talking about.

EMMA ALBERICI: So you've worked in the companies controlled by the Camorra?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): Well, the world of organised crime is a world not unlike the one that you and I live in.

They're entrepreneurs, they're doctors, many of the mob bosses are doctors, and many of the Camorra bosses run construction companies. Some are psychologists. Today they belong to the upper middle-classes. Men who work in regular civic society, but also happen to be Mafiosi, Camorristi, Ndranghetisti and so it follows that some are also involved in politics.

EMMA ALBERICI: How potent is the Italian underworld internationally?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): Well it's especially so in Australia.

Australia was one of the first places targeted by the Ndrangheta, along with Canada. The Calabrian Ndrangheta has its biggest investments there and runs a successful cocaine trafficking business. Australians consume an enormous amount of cocaine from Italy.

The Mafia has always found it quite easy to penetrate the Australian ports for the import of drugs.

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EMMA ALBERICI: Have you actually witnessed murders yourself?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): I've seen the bodies of countless murder victims lying on the ground.

Since I was born 4000 people have been killed, murdered in my town where I come from. Death, or should I say homicide, is considered quite an ordinary way to die, much like people might expect to die of old age or illness.

EMMA ALBERICI: You've made references to the fact that the Camorra members like movies like 'Scarface'; that they identify themselves with characters from 'The Godfather' and so on. Why is it that your book, your movie, didn't excite them quite the same way?

ROBERTO SAVIANO (translated): Because I think, well firstly those shows never use real names or surnames. They identify with the characters that they believe best depict how they see themselves, but there are no names or surnames or addresses of their actual homes.

As well as listing their names and addresses, I also tried hard to portray the stench of the money. Where I come from, they say the dollar doesn't stink, but I really tried to make that money stink and the mob detests that.

In the films, they want to see only blood, military style operations, the glamour. They don't want you to see the business side of the operation.

MARK COLVIN: Roberto Saviano speaking to our Europe correspondent Emma Alberici.

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