As a fugitive you have to be creative to remain a free man. Even when that means dressing up as a woman every now and then. Just ask 42-year-old Camorra boss Aldo Gionta.
This past Saturday, Gionta was arrested by plain clothes policemen at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo as he tried to board a ferry for Malta using false papers. Agents found €1,000.- in his pockets. A man and two women who were accompanying Gionta were also placed under arrest. All four are now in a prison in Syracuse, Sicily. It is unknown whether Gionta was planning on staying in Malta or only using it as a short stop on his way to North Africa.
Gionta is the leader of the Torre Annunziata clan of Sant’Antonio Abate. A Naples clan that was founded by his father, Valentino Gionta (right), who is currently in prison under the 41-bis law, which is reserved for Italy's most dangerous gangsters. He was convicted of ordering the murder of journalist Giancarlo Siani.
Most of Valentino’s relatives were arrested in a huge anti-Mafia operation in November of 2008 targeting the Torre Annunziata clan in Naples. Around 80 clan members were charged with mafia association, murder, extortion, and drug trafficking. Among them was Aldo Gionta, then 36.
Italian prosecutors indicated that the clan made € 170,000 per day from trafficking drugs alone and that the Gionta clan is among Italy’s most prolific narcotics smugglers. Authorities seized € 80 million worth of properties consisting of 11 companies operating in the construction sector, sportswear, and wholesale seafood products, 63 apartments, cars, and personal items of significant value such as gold jewelry.
Locked up with nowhere to go, Gionta continued to be a wiseguy through and through. In various letters he sent while behind bars in the Opera prison in Milan, Gionta turned to his son Valentino, Jr., urging him to “learn to shoot with a Kalashnikov, then I'll tell you what to do.” And that his son had to “be smart, attentive to bugs. And not afford to do anything without my permission.”
While awaiting a verdict in his trial, Gionta, surprisingly enough, was allowed to go outside. A very lenient judge was sympathetic to Gionta’s pleas that he regretted his decisions in life. While Italy has cracked down on the Mafia it has left its various criminal organizations plenty of opportunities to get away with their age old business of racketeering and gangsterism. So, the judge gave Gionta a little bit more wiggle room.
It couldn’t have come as a huge surprise when Gionta (right) did not come in when he was ordered to. Italian authorities had yet another Mafia fugitive on their hands. And as one Bernardo Provenzano showed, those guys can play hide and seek like no one else.
Running from the police, Gionta wore wigs and dressed in women's clothing to avoid capture. An unusual move for an Italian Camorra boss. Yet it’s not something that hasn’t been done before. Infamous Dutch crime boss Stanley Hillis once fled the scene after a robbery by dressing up as a woman.
Now before you start questioning the manhood of either Gionta or Hillis, know that Hillis was considered the Netherlands’ top mob boss feared by many. He was also a partner in crime of Serbian warlord Arkan. Not someone you tell to his face that he acts like a… well, bitch.
The same goes for Gionta. You can’t lead a Camorra clan based on your father’s name alone. The hundreds of murders in and around Naples these past few years have proven that.
Still, many experts consider the cross-dressing another sign of the new school Mafia replacing the old school. The times they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan once sang.
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