200 frozen dormice: Italian police seize stash of prized mafia dish

Three people have been arrested in Calabria, the heartland of the 'Ndrangheta mafia, after discovering a stash of frozen dormice, a favourite mob food, the Repubblica daily said on Saturday.

A small hazel dormouse is held by a person
The ‘Ndrangheta mafia eat dormice at reconciliation banquets. (Photo by CARSTEN REHDER / DPA / AFP)

The ‘Ndrangheta serve dormice, a protected species, during reconciliation banquets held to bring peace between warring families, according to wildlife protection organisation LIPU.

Police found several species of the animal in cages during a drug bust in Delianuova, a town in the hills of southern Italy, along with over 200 frozen dormice packaged for sale and consumption, the Repubblica said.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia?

Poaching is widespread in the Aspromonte mountains in Calabria, with hunters setting thousands of traps in the woods and selling captured dormice illegally to mobsters and restaurants, LIPU said.

The ‘Ndrangheta, based in the region that forms the tip of Italy’s boot, has surpassed Sicily’s more famous Cosa Nostra to become Italy’s most powerful mafia group and operates across the world.

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Families demand justice as 50,000 march against Italian mafia

On a national day of remembrance, hundreds of bereaved relatives joined a march that culminated in front of Milan's Duomo cathedral, some carrying photos of their dead loved ones -- and many still waiting for justice.

Families demand justice as 50,000 march against Italian mafia

Two months after the arrest of Italy’s most-wanted mob boss shone a spotlight on the mafia, more than 50,000 people marched on Tuesday in Milan to remember their victims.

“It will be 28 years at the end of this month, and we are still searching for the truth,” said Paolo Marcone, 50, whose father was killed in 1995 by the mafia in Foggia, in Italy’s southeastern region of Puglia.

READ ALSO: ‘Very violent’: How Italy’s youngest mafia is terrorising the Puglia region

Francesco Marcone, a local official, had just returned home from work when he was shot in the back.

“Dad died on the stairs of the house. My sister found the body,” his son recalled.

The family believes he discovered something at work that he should not have, but “sadly the truth has not come out”, Paolo Marcone told AFP.

READ ALSO: Ruthless Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro’s reign of terror

“We need these days to keep the memories alive and at the same time to keep calling for justice and truth,” he said.

After all this time, “we are a bit disappointed and tired, but we never lose hope”.

Relatives of mafia victims held their photos during the demonstration in Milan. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

Police estimated the size of the crowd at 50,000 in Milan where, at the foot of the Duomo, a white sheet was laid out bearing the names of 1,069 victims.

Elisabetta Di Caterina, 52, joined the march in memory of her brother-in-law, Riccardo Angelo. She said he was killed in an ambush by the Camorra mafia in 1991 outside of Caserta, near Naples. He was 21.

The killer was caught and died in prison, she said, but added: “We ask for justice and the truth for all the families who are still waiting.”

Vincenzo Luciano, 55, lost his two brothers, Aurelio and Luigi, to the Foggia mafia in 2017, who “found themselves in the middle of a shoot-out”.

“It took the deaths of another two innocent people for the state to wake up and understand that the mafia was here,” he told AFP.

The Foggia mafia is considered Italy’s newest and most violent organised crime syndicate.

The event comes after the arrest in January of fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro, a Sicilian mob boss implicated in some of the Cosa Nostra’s most heinous crimes, after 30 years on the run.

This is the 28th year that Italy has celebrated its national day of remembrance for mafia victims.