Flashback to late 2019 – when G G Novack was just a kid with a journalistic dream.
Naples is a small city of about 1 million inhabitants positioned close to the Amalfi Coast – summer playground for the rich and famous. Leo De Caprio and his extensive security detail were swanning about nearby Positano while I was in town. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, a big draw for food loving tourists. Wait times of 2 or 3 hours are common at the most renowned pizzerias.
Naples is also home to the Calabrian Mafia, the Ndrangheta. This sprawling criminal enterprise has annual revenue of about 53 billion euros, or about 3.5% of Italy’s GDP, a decent pile of money to launder. In recent years the Ndrangheta has surpassed the Sicilian mafia and now dominates many of the lucrative rackets that La Cosa Nostra once owned. Naples city has a strange vibe. All manner of nefarious activities are operating just below the surface, and you can feel it. My senses are twitching.
After the exorbitance of Rome, Naples prices are appreciably agreeable. Coffee sells for €1, pizza for €4, and a bottle of local beer for €2. The city is similar to Melbourne, crisscrossed with graffitied laneways that house hidden bars and restaurants. A margarita pizza underwhelmed, but an excellent ragu saved the culinary day.
The residences of Naples are equipped with 4 garbage bins – one for plastic, one for paper and cardboard, one for food scraps, and the last for miscellaneous refuse. The irony of this level of fastidious care only becomes apparent while driving along the highways that feed the city. Waste disposal has long been an area of Mafia interest. The Calabrian Mafia is no exception. Its front companies have consistently won government contracts to remove and dispose of the region’s waste. These contracts are often not honoured, or used to blackmail regulators – pay us more or the waste will not be removed. This has led to instances when week’s worth of garbage has accumulated in the streets of Naples, creating a filthy haven for rats.
The highways leading into Naples are currently strewn with rubbish. Miles and miles of it, as far as the eye can see. The carefully separated cardboard, plastic and food scraps are seemingly dumped in an ugly piles on the side of the road. Soiled mattresses smoulder, throwing up plumes of acrid smoke. It is inconceivable that this issue has not been resolved. Italy is still considered a first world country.
The Amalfi coastline, about 2 hours from Naples, is suitably spectacular. Sheer cliffs rise above a turquoise sea. Houses and apartments are cut directly into the mountainous terrain. Pleasure-craft are moored offshore out of range of prying telescopic lenses. Rocky shores swarm with sun-kissed tourists. Beachside restaurants serve Italian classics and cold beer to tourists at expectedly extortionist prices. The seaside road is narrow, winding and treacherous. Buses that service the route are covered in scrapes and dents. My tiny rented Fiat squeezes between rock walls and larger vehicles with inches to spare. Dodgy car-parking operations flourish, €6 an hour plus tip seems the going rate. Spend at least one day exploring the Amalfi coastline.
Your humble essayist was seated in a café in the back-lane of Naples that serves sweet, hot, shots of caffeine when a lightbulb revelation struck. This haphazard adventure is opening my eyes to a Europe-wide scam of boggling proportions. It may be larger than all mafias combined. It’s the Great European Bottled Water Racket (GEBWR). Suspicion in the quality of tap water unnerves the public and fuels the unnecessary consumption of millions of bottles of H2O. Delivery trucks ferry the cargo round the clock, blocking roads and parking wherever they please. Supermarket aisles struggle to contain the product. Cafes and restaurants automatically put a bottle on your table. Garbage bins overflow with discarded plastic containers. Are plumbing networks really that deficient? Has water quality been recently tested by a credible scientific body? Has nobody heard of purifiers that can be attached to faucets? Is the entire continent being conned in a massive multi-billion dollar deception?
This warrants further investigation.
Keep paying the bills boss. I’m on the verge of a significant journalistic breakthrough. My work is set to rattle this malfeasance-riddled pyramid to its core.
Stay with me readers. Your support at this critical juncture is urgently required.
G G Novack – Jetsetter, Investigative Journalist