• Mafia Only kills In Summer - streaming now on SBS On Demand (SBS)Source: SBS
Think that as Italian organised crime families aren’t as visible as they once were, that they’ve disappeared? Fughedaboudit.
Jeremy Cassar

23 Mar 2017 - 2:02 PM  UPDATED 23 Mar 2017 - 4:16 PM

Streaming now on SBS On Demand are all 12 episodes of Mafia Only Kills in Summer, a satirical series based on the 2013 movie of the same name that riffs on our expectations of Italian organised crime. Like the film, it is a cracker.

While the many-pronged Italian Mafia remains the most known and most fictionalised criminal organisation world-wide, it’s easy to assume they’ve grown incongruous in this modern-age, Internet era.

But they’re still thriving in many of the world’s cities, and have integrated into modern life in more ways than is generally appreciated.

Let’s start with the ovvio (that’s "obvious" in generic Italian)

Each of the five-odd major mafias up and down the Dr. Martens-shaped land-mass have managed to keep multiple fingers in the societal pie.

The most (in)famous is the Sicilian “Cosa Nostra” (loosely translated to “Our thing”). From its beginnings in the early 1800s, Our Thing branched out to the US at the turn of the 20th century - and would gain serious power during the Prohibition years by supplying bootleg liquor. In Italy, the group capitalised on the post-WW2 1950s construction boom in Southern Italy, worming its way deep into construction industries.

The FBI has accused the Palermo-based organisation of involvement in Europe's heroin distribution and global arms trafficking, and it is thought to have influence in both Italian law enforcement and government - though its power has waned in recent years.

The other quattro

The remaining four mafia groups are the ‘Ngrangheta from Calabria (a 2014 study estimated it earnt more than Maccas and Deutsche Bank combined, via drugs and illegal garbage disposal), the Sacra Corona Unita of Apulia (the least influential), Stidda, also of the Sicilian region (Cosa Nostra spin-off) and of course, the Neapolitan Camorra (killed over 3000 people in three decades for getting in the way).

The United States of America

Mob activity in the US isn’t all that dissimilar from what’s depicted in The Sopranos. Each year, indictments and arrests in major eastern cities take place for the usual charges of racketeering, human and drug trafficking, and legitimate industry infiltration.

But these days, the Italian-American Mafia is keeping things relatively low-key. The US government would argue this is due to the work of federal intelligence agencies, but it could be the mob is merely returning to a less personality-driven and more traditional method of avoiding the limelight.


Melbourne. Our nation’s epicentre of culture, sport and perpendicular town-planning. Great coffee, even greater food, and criminal activity from some of those with direct ties to the Italian homeland.

After the very public 1977 disappearance and presumed murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay, the Australian mafia has been largely confined to drug trafficking (and affiliated intra-gang warfare and shootings).

And while Melbourne is Aussie city most synonymous with Italian Mafia presence, experts believe that inexplicable levels of drug trafficking in other states such as Queensland (only 0.9 per cent of offences stem from bikies) believe that their influence could be nationwide.

The Colombian links

It should come as no surprise that Colombia, ground zero for cocaine manufacture, has Italian mafia links. In 2013, Roberto Pannunzi was arrested by local police and the US DEA. Italian prosecutor Nicola Gratteri accused him of being the "biggest cocaine importer in the world" of 3000 kilograms and up - to both "Ndragheta and the Cosa Nostra.

Domenico Trimboli, another suspected mafioso, reportedly offered officers who arrested him in 1994 a million dollars in cash to let him go free.

Mafia Only Kills in Summer is streaming now on SBS On Demand:

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