Italian police decipher 'Mafia code' in initiation script
Italian detectives decipher mysterious encoded document and discover that it is a secret Mafia initiation rite
Italian police have cracked an encrypted mafia initiation rite written in a code resembling ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The secret document was found by detectives in Rome during an investigation into the murder of a member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia, which is based in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot.
It refers to a pledge of "blood and honour" that is required of those wanting to become part of the 'Ndrangheta, which has grown rich and powerful from cocaine trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities.
The initiation rite would have been recited by prospective members of the organised crime network during secret ceremonies.
The document explains how to conduct an initiation rite. "For the baptism, five people are needed – no more and no less," it said.
The initiate is required to use a knife or other sharp instrument to make a cut in his skin in order to make a blood oath in which he swears "eternal allegiance to the honoured society".
The ceremony should be carried out in a place that is "sacred, sacrosanct and secure", the document explained.
The three-page, hand-written document is covered in mysterious symbols, some of them resembling Cyrillic, Greek and ancient Egyptian.
It was deciphered by two police officers with an interest in codes and word puzzles.
The breakthrough came when they decoded the symbol that represented the letter C, which enabled them to slowly begin to understand the rest of the strange alphabet.
The fact that the unusual document was found in Rome showed the extent to which the 'Ndrangheta has spread from its traditional stronghold in Calabria to other parts of Italy, police said.
The encoded pages were discovered during an investigation into the murder last January of Vincenzo Femia, who was shot dead on the streets of the capital.