London, Aug 25 (ANI): The Italian underworld, which has for a long time been the domain of men, is now seeing women taking up top mafia ranks as godmothers in order to fill up the gaps left by the godfathers.
These women gang leaders are either widows or wives of those who are behind bars.
They are said to be just as determined and ruthless as the men.
These women even celebrate their notoriety with nicknames like "Fat Cat" and "Tomboy", the latter belonging to a woman who was shot in the face during a clan feud, the same way their male counterparts did.
Anti-mafia campaigns in Naples Camorra chieftains have put dozens of mobsters in prison.
Carabinieri arrested 11 women for drug trafficking in a raid on Naples' Sarno crime clan in July.
A mother and her two adult daughters were arrested on organised-crime charges, including extortion.
"There is a growing number of women who hold executive roles," the Telegraph quoted Gen Gaetano Maruccia, commander of the Carabinieri paramilitary police in the Naples area, as saying.
"They are either widows or wives of husbands who have been put in prison. They hold the reins. They're very good at mapping out strategy, even sharper (than the men)," he said.
Some Camorra women still perform the more traditional roles of cutting and repackaging cocaine and heroin in their kitchens or paying teenagers to act as lookouts, others are wielding power on the streets.
Women also extort businesses and shop owners for "pizzo" or protection money and control multi-million pound drug trafficking operations.
"Women are assuming ever-more leading roles," Stefania Castaldi, a Naples-based prosecutor who investigates organised crime, said.
One of them is Maria Licciardi, one of the victors of a long-running blood feud that in recent years left Naples littered with bodies.
"Signora Licciardi is a true 'madrina' (godmother), absolutely," Castaldi said.
"She was the sister of a boss, and she sat at the table with other bosses, she made decisions with them, she was right at their level," she added.
Authorities are now investigating whether one of those decisions was an order to execute as many as 30 of her rivals. (ANI)