Acid bath threat calls on the case of a Roma criminal clan | Voice of america
A mafia ex-wife was threatened with an acid bath. Another was regularly threatened with a knife in the throat, led by her own mother-in-law, the boss of Rome’s legendary Roma or Gypsy criminal clan.
Now they are cooperating with Italy’s anti-mafia police and are revealing the secrets of a brutal and turbulent criminal syndicate, which the Spadino family in the Netflix blockbuster Suburra partly served as a model.
Like their fictional counterparts, the Casamonica clan members, overseen by 65-year-old matriarch Gelsomina Di Silvio, are loan sharks, drug dealers, and blackmailers, and they don’t skimp on using extreme violence when crossed. Last week, during a dawn raid on the Italian capital, police arrested 20 clan members with information given to them by ex-wives of clan members who became fully cooperative informants.
Police forces seized $ 22.5 million worth of assets in the raids on homes with faux-classical statues and gilded furniture and the kind of bling that would pop even the most conspicuous New York criminal family or Latin American drug cartel.
The Casamonica clan has long been the target of the Italian police – and the Italian media. In 2015, the family staged a film-like funeral for their patriarch Vittorio Casamonica with a helicopter that dropped rose petals and a band that played the theme music for “The Godfather”.
Two years ago, the authorities tore down eight illegally built family villas in a south-eastern part of Rome. The demolition was observed by then Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Nicola Zingaretti, governor of the Lazio region, which includes the Italian capital.
The raids followed the court testimony of ex-wives Debora Cerreoni and Simona Zakova earlier this year. None of the women are Roma – unusual for the Casamonicas, who usually marry relatives. Zakova is a Czech citizen.
Some of the abuse women received from family members, including their partners, appears to be due to their underdog status. As the British royal family has learned, getting married outside of an intimate circle can mean trouble, an Italian police commander said.
The abuse the women experienced could have doomed the family. The women have been happy to avenge their abuse by telling prosecutors everything – information picked up by the Italian press. On Saturday, Gelsomina Di Silvio remained defiant during a video-bound court hearing but appeared surprised to learn that the long list of charges already filed against her and 44 other clan members by authorities prior to last week’s raids would be terminated expanded.
“When she heard of the additional charges that were added to the serious charges already brought against her, Di Silvio panicked for a moment,” wrote the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero. “But then she put herself back together again,” reported the newspaper. She announced not to cooperate with the investigators.
The ex-wives have clearly identified Gelsomina Di Silvio as the dominant figure in the clan since Vittorio’s death in 2015. She would act as a peace broker in a family that was constantly at war with itself. “The different branches of the family are jealous of each other, but when there is a problem they come together, united,” one of the ex-wives said in court. “You are like a pack of wolves. That’s how they work, ”she added.
Much of the public and media attention was focused on the lives of the former wives. “You ruined my life,” she said in court in January. “They threatened to dissolve me in acid,” said Debora Cerreoni.
Zakova has spoken about the fact that she was a virtual prisoner and was only allowed to leave the family premises with someone while Massimiliano, the son of Gelsomina Di Silvio, was in prison. Zakova said her mother-in-law would press a knife to her throat. “She’s violent, she commands. She is not normal, she is the incarnate devil, “she told the prosecutor.
Among other things, the ex-wives told the police where to find the account books in which loan-sharing transactions are listed. And the couple told them that the family houses were flooded with cash. “They always keep their money in cash – they do not use bank accounts or invest it because they are always afraid that it will be confiscated by the authorities,” Zakova told police. Millions of euros have been hidden behind false walls.
Clan members spend a lot of money on lavish things – from expensive Rolex watches valued at $ 50,000 to Chanel handbags valued at $ 4,000. “At Gucci there is someone who serves them, who is only there for the Casamonicas,” says 32-year-old Zakova.
Aside from their penchant for bling, family members enjoy eating sushi and frequent Russian restaurants in the Italian capital – possibly to do business with Russian crime gangs, some police suspect.
Gelsomina Di Silvio used to visit the five-star Hotel Eden in Rome, which belongs to the Dorchester group, often for afternoon tea. “The Casamonicas often pick up goods from companies free of charge, relying on the fact that no one will report them out of fear and consequently discovering a constant state of submission and silence,” reported Zakova.
The clan’s biggest criticism allegedly concerns the Italian mafias further south, the Camorra of Naples and Calabria’s’ Ndrangheta, who are trying to overcrowd them and enter what the family sees as their turf – Rome. In a tapped telephone conversation that was made public in court, Guido Casamonica complains: “The Neapolitans want to come to Rome, the Camorra want to come in here, and the Calabrians want to come too.”