The organized religiosity of organized crime (Part-2) – The Devil wears a dog collar, not Prada


Antichrist and the Devil. ‘The  Deeds of the Antichrist’ – fresco by Luca Signorelli, c. 1501


The Antichrist is a Christian concept of a concentrated form of evil that could either mean a type of personality or a specific person (I understand that the bible doesn’t make that very clear), though the word ‘antichrist’ is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament.

According to Christianity, this being is out there somewhere and will appear and try to take over the role of Christ and fail because Christ will appear once more to defeat him. As to when that’ll happen, it’ll be ‘at the end of time’, which is no longer scientifically acceptable answer.

Christianity’s younger and more belligerent cousin, Islam too dwells upon the concept of the evil ‘antichrist’, referred to in the Hadith, as ‘Al-Masih ad-Dajjal’. And likewise, he is going to appear, pretending to be the Masih (Messiah – the Prophet) at a certain point in time, in the future. When? You guessed it – at the end of time. Quiet convenient – this ‘end of time’

The third and eldest cousin, Judaism, calls the Antichrist, Armilus, who is pretty much the same thing but I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what the Jewish antichrist will look like. The Christian one is reptilian, with horns and a tail. The Muslim antichrist is blind in one eye and the other bulges out ‘like a grape’, according to Wikipedia.

According to the above three cousins, the following are the signs that the Antichrist has arrived:

People will stop offering prayers – Check. Not even a single one of my Christian pals goes to church. They’ll know every word in ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’ but not a single line of a single hymn.

Dishonesty will be the way of life – Check. Remember Bill Clinton and his ‘I…did not…have sex…with that…woman?

Falsehood will become a virtue – Check. So, what’s noo?

People will mortgage their faith for worldly gain – Check. What faith?

Usury and bribery will become legitimate – No shit. Really?

There will be acute famine at the time – Is 2050AD, with 10 billion souls, being optimistic?

There will be no shame among people – Yawn. Refer to prediction no.2

Many people would worship the Satan – You mean we’ll worship ourselves?

There would be no respect for elderly people – Ask me, I’m 60

Looking at the predictions above, I would say that the antichrist is already here in our midst, probably already kicking ass.

As to the real Christ’s second coming, the first one was a carpenter who ignored vast swathes of the world in his enlightenment-spreading spree, like as if only the golden crescent mattered in all the world. Maybe this time around, the tall blonde guy will show up in Mumbai, as a Maharashtrian amchi manas vada-pao wala, who badly needs a haircut.

Interestingly, as far as I know Hinduism does not speak about the coming of any external being akin to either the Christ or the Antichrist. Maybe Hinduism doesn’t believe in the concept of external consultants. It claims that the antichrist or Al-Masih ad-Dajjal or anyone else, actually lives within us and can easily be vanquished if only we have the will to fight them.

Hinduism does however speak of an apocalyptic annihilation, followed by a sort of control-alter-delete reset. It says that the cycle will begin once more, starting with a world where everything is warm, cuddly and righteous. Maybe all women shall look like Scarlett Johanssen and I could have as many as I wanted.

The infamous 1920s Chicago mob boss, Al Capone, reaffirmed the Hindu belief. On the dock, after the verdict was delivered, he was asked if he had anything to say before he was led out to start serving his sentence. With a bewildered look of hurt in his eyes, he said,” Crime? I am no criminal. You brought prohibition, but folk had to drink and I saw to it they got some. The poor sods were stuck in cold, joyless marriages and wanted release and I gave them hookers. They had no jobs, no money. They wanted to get rich quick and I gave them gambling. I only served the people.” If nobody drank, would Capone’s bootleg business have survived?


In a way, Coco Campolongo(See Part-1) never had a chance; at least not at leading a normal life. Born into a family of drug pushers in ground zero of ‘Ndrangheta territory in southern Italy, the only occasion when the toddler had seen his parents was when someone found the time to take him to visit them in prison.

Coco’s nonnino, Guiseppe Iannicelli, was well known to the cops, having been convicted earlier of dealing narcotics. At the time of the killing, he was serving out an eight-year suspended sentence under nocturnal house arrest.

Naturally there were cries of horrified indignation at the January 2014 killing of Coco. Even for a country that has numbed itself to willful blindness at organized crime hits, the deliberate murder of a 3-year old looked like it was going to be a tipping point. From his pulpit, Pope Francis cried,” “How could anyone kill a tiny creature of just three years in this way?”

Then, as if to square things up, to show the world that evil had lost in the end and thereby reaffirm the law of conservation of spiritual entropy, more like the CEO of a loss-making enterprise addressing the annual general meeting of shareholders, making the picture rosier than it actually was, Pope Francis confirmed gravely that the child would surely go to heaven. He must know. After all, he is believed by the Roman Catholic faith to be God’s own rep on earth. Who knows, maybe they face-time together every day, right?

The Pope went even further. “You, the mafia, are hereby excommunicated from the Catholic Church”, he announced, even though excommunication from the Catholic Church is a lengthy bureaucratic process and cannot be carried out by just an announcement. Still, the Pope put every bishop in Italy on notice. Henceforth, no mafia money should be accepted as donations and no mafia sponsors shall be sought for spring festivals like the Pasqua Processiones (Easter processions) that are organized every year by the church and sponsored by mafia money.

Two decades back, when the old Mustache Petes ruled the Italian organized crime syndicates, the Pope’s excommunication of organized crime members would have been a body blow to the mobsters. That’s because these guys, besides being very devout Catholics themselves, believed that they depended upon the goodwill of the hoi-polloi in order to thrive. You couldn’t run an illegal loan sharking operation or a protection racket if the folk who needed those services didn’t trust you.

The Catholic Church had it’s fingers on the goodwill switch and the power to negate that trust. It provided the Italian organized crime syndicates with an umbrella of legitimacy that made these monsters look warm and fuzzy in the eyes of the common folk. Bishops and cardinals were in the payroll of at least one of the four main crime groups. As a religious institution, it was dirty to the core.

Except for John Paul-1, the Pontiffs who came before Francis-1 either never did consider breaking with the Mafia a priority or were themselves in league with organized crime. Indeed, some Popes, like the Borgias, were a crime syndicate, all by themselves, no kidding.

There was another thing that the Catholic Church customized for the conscience of the mobster – the confessional. It was and still is a most ridiculous farce, a very convenient way to shrug off the burden of one’s sins. The confessional is where the Catholic priest takes the confessor’s sins upon himself, like Jesus Christ once did, though the justice behind it escapes me to this day. And it is safe too. Like with a doctor, a statement made in a confessional to a priest is protected under most privacy laws and inadmissible in any court of law.

You murder someone and then go to your priest and confess and you walk away, feeling cleansed. The priest doesn’t really give a damn. He has been listening to sin every day and grown immune to it. He himself has either done those things that he hears through the partition or at least thought of doing them. Hey, a priest is human, okay? He forgets about your confession the moment your ass is out the door, gets himself a beer with the fiver you left in the donation box and life goes on. You got a clean slate, the priest got his beer money and the god of the Catholics was appeased. Who gives a shit what you did to a guy who deserved to get whacked anyway?

The times however have changed, even for the ‘Ndrangheta. An Ndranghetisti today doesn’t give a flying f–k about image or trust or how the common Calabrian Joe feels about the brutal way it conducts it’s business. While earlier, the killing of family members of a marked man or innocent bystanders was a strict no-no, little Coco is a stark reminder that the rules have changed, that there are no longer any rules. The stakes are just too high now. Nine out of ten sachets of Columbian cocaine that change hands in Europe, a market work $80 billion, come from the ‘Ndrangheta.

It is debatable if there is anyone that ‘Ndrangheta would hesitate to harm. Probably there is only one man – the Pope, but I am no longer sure. The same goes for the other three crime syndicates that together virtually own Italy – the Sicilian Costa Nostra, the Sacra Corona Unita of Apulia and the Camorra from Naples.

It is not as if the Pope has always been above the organized crime’s reach. Shortly after 5am on September 28, 1978, just 33 days after his election as Pope, John Paul-1 was found dead by a nun who had brought him his morning coffee. Simple at heart and charged with a burning desire to rid the Vatican of it’s links to organized crime and usher the Catholic Church out of it’s criminal ways into a path of true spirituality, he was known to the world as the ‘Smiling Pope’. It is widely believed that he was assassinated by poisoning, by one of his own senior staff, for trying to reform the mafia-ridden Vatican Bank which had turned itself into a money laundering enterprise for the Italian organized crime syndicates. It is not known as to which one of the four syndicates was responsible for the killing.


The safety net of religion and it’s nexus with organized crime is not restricted to just Calabria.

When he was declared a global terrorist by the US, his hosts (Pakistan) used the opportunity to tighten the screws on Indian-born Dawood Ibraham. Listed as no.3 in the Forbes’ World’s ten most dangerous criminals, Ibrahim has a personal net worth of $20 billion.

After he was found to be directly responsible for the series of powerful bomb blasts that killed 350 and injured over 1200, in Mumbai in 1993, the US moved to tag him as a wanted terrorist and the pressure on Pakistan to cough him up grew. Ibrahim, by then ensconced in the tony Karachi colony, realized it was now a matter of time before he became, to the Pakistani establishment, expendable.

But this is where his astuteness came into play. He knew before anyone else that Pakistan was soon going to be overrun by religiosity of the most virulent kind – Islamic fundamentalism. Previously known during his murderous life in India to be a secular don, with a right-hand man who was a Hindu, he decided to have a make-over and take refuge in religion.

Dawood began distributing largesse in the form of millions, to rogue Pakistani terrorist outfits like the Markaz-ud Dawa, the front organisation of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, fuelling their gargantuan growth, laundering their funds from his bases in Europe and Southeast Asia, gaining their support and through them, the assurance of sanctuary by the equally rogue Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI.


Former Bollywood hearthrob, Anil Kapoor, with Dawood Ibrahim at a cricket match in Sharjah. Besides Kapoor, a number of Bollywood A-List stars, such as Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Govinda have been known to hob nob with this ar—hole. This speaks volumes for India’s seriousness in fighting terrorism and organized crime, when rich film stars cavort openly with murderous monsters like Dawood Ibrahim and seem to get away with it.


Dawood Ibrahim’s generosity toward the terrorists changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s politics and ensured that he would never be touched. He continues to lead a brazen existence amid opulence, in an elite neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Karachi, where he is known simply as ‘Sultan Shah’. He lives inside a heavily guarded compound that goes by the name of ‘White House’ and has five sprawling single-storied bungalows in it.

Inside the sprawling White House complex, Dawood is reported to have built his very own mosque, where he takes time every afternoon, to read from the Quran, his visage suitably grave and penitent. He too has found sanctuary in religion. Ibrahim even conducts conferences inside that mosque, planning hits and drug shipments, the holy environs of the mosque imparting some kind of legitimacy to his nefarious mindset. Just like the church does, for the ‘Ndranghetisti.


When he was controlling all the madka (numbers) rackets in the 70s, the Mumbai underworld don, Varadaraja Mudaliar (1926-1988), known to everyone as Vardhabhai, once caught one of his numbers runners cheating on a customer who had put the equivalent of 10¢ on a winning combination. It would have paid the guy off – $ 250.

Before he had the runner tossed out of the 20th floor of the Oberoi Trident Hotel in Nariman Point, Vardhabhai is reported to have told the man, “ On your way down, I want you to keep repeating ‘trust’, ‘trust’, ‘trust’.”

The don didn’t give a flying fig about the customer who had lost his winnings, though he did make sure that the man was reimbursed in full. He just wanted to send out a message to all those poor sods, those daily-wage laborers who paid into the system, in nickels and dimes, hoping for a windfall. A message that the madka racket was a fair one and there was always a chance they would hit the jackpot if they kept playing and if a runner should cheat them, they’d be reimbursed their winnings, come what may.

Mudaliar, was an extremely pious man. Never seen without those thick vibhuti lines on his forehead, made from sacred ash from holy wood burnt according to vedic rituals, he too had a massive temple inside his compound.

Still, Mudaliar liked to hedge his bets as regards his relationship with the Almighty. A devout Hindu, he made it a point to visit the dargah of Bismillah Shah Baba in Mumbai often, to offer food to the poor, an essentially Muslim ritual. Being on the right side of the Almighty mattered to Vardhabhai. Likewise, Haji Mastan Mirza, another legendary don and a contemporary of Mudaliar, derived his name ‘Haji’ from the frequent Haj pilgrimages that he undertook, to cleanse himself of his sins.


For the criminal mind, immersion into religion is to him, like a catharsis that he has to go through, in order to be able to live the life that he lives. It must be like biting into a twist of a lime after a shot of tequila, to take away the taste.

Monasteries and churches like the one in Polsi, dot the hills and dales of Calabria. Understandable. Like the deadly lupara, the Calabrian version of a sawed-off shotgun, religion too is an essential accessory. The Catholic Church secures his soul. Albeit, for a generous donation. Monks got ta eat, right?

In Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, terrified that he might go to hell for all his black deeds, Don Vito Corleone’s lifelong friend and consigliere, Genco Abandando, cries out from his death bed to the Don,” Stay with me, Godfather. Help me meet death. If he sees you, he will be frightened and leave me in peace. You can say a word, pull a few strings, eh? We’ll outwit that bastard as we outwitted all those others.” Deep inside, he must have realized that all the thousands that he gave away as donations to churches and charities were probably not going to help now. I am not sure if, by the ‘bastard’, he means the Satan or God.

And so does it go with gangsters of every ilk. Building a personal mosque or a temple, helps secure their souls.

And boy, do their souls require securing.


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