Italy entrepreneur defies mafia with tuna and ice cream

Tue Nov 8, 2011 8:24am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Philip Pullella

PIZZO CALABRO, Italy (Reuters) - Sometimes Filippo Callipo, one of southern Italy's most successful businessmen, wonders why he is still alive.

Callipo's refusal to play ball with the mob in an area where organised crime forces many businesses to pay extortion money and even dictates which suppliers companies must use has made him somewhat of a local legend.

But it also means he makes the sign of the cross when he leaves home. It is a silent prayer that he will return each day from overseeing four businesses that provide 350 jobs in a region that has one of Italy's highest unemployment rates.

"Sure I'm afraid. Only an imbecile wouldn't be," said Callipo, who drives his own car and has no bodyguards. "But I am a fatalist. If they want to get you they will. It would be so easy in my case," he said in the offices of Callipo Tuna.

The company, which had revenues of about 40 million euros in 2010, sells high-quality tuna to supermarkets and up-market, gourmet specialty shops the world over.

He also owns Callipo Gelati, which produces the Pizzo area's famed ice cream for worldwide export, a 200-bed luxury country resort and health spa overlooking the Mediterranean, and a volleyball team that plays in Italy's national first division.

Achieving all this would be impressive anywhere in Italy. Achieving it in an economically depressed region like Calabria, home of one of the world's most feared and powerful organised crime groups, the 'Ndrangheta, is perhaps unique.

Investigators say the highly secretive Calabrian crime syndicate has overtaken Sicily's Mafia to dominate drug trafficking and extortion rackets in Europe and beyond.   Continued...

<p>Filippo Callipo's workers cut tuna fish inside his plant in Pizzo Calabro, October 10, 2011. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>