20 JANUARY 1900, Page 3

The moral and political issues involved in the Notarbarbolo case,

now being tried at Milan, are little less serious for Italy than those of the Dreyfus affair have been for France. Signor Notarbarbolo, who was appointed by the Minister of the Interior to investigate certain financial scandals connected with the Bank of Sicily, was assassinated, it is alleged, at the instigation of Signor Patizollo, Deputy for Palermo, who was implicated in the scandals and, what is far more important, is a member of the Maffia. A good account of the growth and organisation of this famous secret society is given in the Daily Nail of Tuesday. Based originally on a racial instinct of oppo. sition to arbitrary rule imposed by alien authority, the Maffia gradually developed into a secret society for the mutual pro. teetion of all Sicilian criminals, the bond that unites its mem- bers being one of reciprocal liability, and the ultimate sanction being the murder that is never denounced and rarely punished in an island where many members of the Bench are " Maffiosi," the great majority of the population are " agin the Govern- ment," and the police are terrorised. To defeat local influ- ences the Italian Government have removed the venue of the trial from Palermo to Milan, but their task is immensely complicated by the wholesale perjury of witnesses and the falsification or destruction of documents. The Maffia, in a word, is fighting for its life, since the success of the prosecu- tion would probably deal a death-blow to the society, while the defeat of the Government would immensely enhance its prestige and power.