The Life and Times of the Sicilian Robin Hood
Giuliano Expands His Criminal Enterprise
From hijacking, robbery, and attacks on the caribineri, Giuliano branched out into another profitable activity: kidnapping.
This sort of kidnapping had nothing to do with the abduction of children for ransom. It was the capture of prominent adults who would be returned to their families for a sizeable amount of cash. In Giuliano's case, he would never dream of abducting children, whom he held in high regard and affection. But a rich duke or prince was another matter.
The system followed certain rules. The target, known to be wealthy, would be kidnapped. The abductee's family would be informed of the amount of the ransom required usually half of the suspected wealth of the individual and mafia representatives would act as "agents," that is, they would convey the messages from the kidnappers to the families and collect the money. Naturally, the mafia took a percentage for its troubles. The amount of the ransom was negotiable, usually settling at a sum of several million lire. (The rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and the Italian lira at that time was approximately 600 lire to the dollar. Hence, most of these transactions were around $50,000.)
The practice of kidnapping embellished Giuliano's legend even more. First, he employed the Robin Hood tactic of robbing from the rich. Second, the accounts of his treatment of his captives reinforced his gentlemanly nature. A victim would be housed adequately, fed well, provided with books, and entertained by Giuliano. Reports after the release of the captives often spoke of how much they had enjoyed the experience.
Sooner or later, a reward would be offered for the capture of Giuliano. The King of the Mountain would respond by doubling the reward for the death of the official who had proposed the reward. With the exception of a few brave souls, the rewards for Giuliano "dead or alive" were pointless, because informers were subject to Giuliano's swift justice: a firing squad with a note pinned to the body.