The last 15 years have seen tremendous successes in the fight against organised crime in Italy and especially against southern Italian mafia groups. The successes of the early 1990s are publicly acknowledged: there is unanimity on the fact that the first part of that decade witnessed an unprecedented leap forward in both the fight against mafia groups and our knowledge of the mafia phenomenon. Yet the successes of the last decade are systematically understated, if not denied – a pattern that Antonio La Spina (2004) has called the ‘paradox of effectiveness’. With varying degrees of good faith, most members of the law enforcement community, anti-mafia NGOs and academic and journalistic commentators insist upon the fact that from the mid-1990s onwards the anti-mafia fight dramatically slowed down and weakened. At the same time, mafia organisations, and particularly the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, are routinely portrayed as immensely powerful and almost invincible. The few observers who express less pessimistic views are harshly criticised by anti-mafia prosecutors and activists alike and accused of having lost contact with local southern Italian reality or, even worse, of serving mafia interests. 1