No one is untouchable. Of course, others are easier to touch than others. In Italy this is being proven each and every day as Mafiosi and corrupt politicians escape justice by abusing one of the many loopholes the law offers them.
One of the men who managed to escape justice, according to many judges, pentiti, wiretaps, policemen, is Giulio Andreotti, who passed away on May 6th at age 94. Andreotti served as Italy’s prime minister seven times and was tried twice on his alleged connections to the Mafia, he was acquitted both times. But despite the acquittals, he could not shake his shady past.
Another man with a shadowy rise to the top of Italian, and European, business and politics is Silvio Berlusconi. On May 8, the former prime minister lost the first appeal of his tax fraud conviction. He was sentenced to four years in prison on these charges in October of last year. He is also currently on trial on charges that he had sex with an underage prostitute. Just like with Andreotti, there are allegations of collusion with the Mafia with Berlusconi as well.
However, proving these, or any, allegations is quite troubling in Italy. And Italians have accepted this truth. While big names like Berlusconi and Andreotti grabbed the headlines this past week, other news was ignored. News that gives insight into the inner workings of a corrupt system.
Last week a Palermo judge destroyed wiretaps of conversations between Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano (right) and ex-interior minister Nicola Mancino (left), in which Mancino allegedly asked about the possibility of getting Italy's chief anti-mafia prosecutor to intervene in his case. Mancino is currently being tried with ten other men for their involvement in talks between the Italian state and Cosa Nostra during the Mafia’s deadly bombing campaign in 1992 when it waged war on the state.
The other defendants are informant Massimo Ciancimino, Marcello Dell’Utri, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's ally and conservative senator, Cologero Mannino, a former minister and MP, jailed mafia boss of bosses Salvatore “Toto” Riina and his brother-in-law Leoluca Bagarella, Mafiosi Giovanni Brusca and Antonino Cinà, and three members of the Carabinieri.
(Full list and bios of these defendants at the bottom of this page.)
The destroyed wiretaps may shock readers outside of Italy, but for Italians it is business as usual. Corruption involving politicians and several sectors of the public administration is among the most pressing problems of the country. Yet, Italians have grown accustomed to that, and this is perhaps the reason why only a small percentage of the public follows this trial.
Politicians in general, and especially those at the highest levels, are protected and they usually enjoy immunity from prosecution. In the last few years, the government introduced total immunity for the five highest institutional figures (Prime Minister, President of the Republic, President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, President of the Constitutional Court). The Berlusconi government even changed some laws in order to decriminalize specific crimes in which Berlusconi himself was involved and a time limit for trials dealing with crimes other than murder. Why prove you are innocent if you can just stall until the time runs out and you are set free?
Dubbed the Mafia-State trial, this is the first trial in Italian history that involves both Mafiosi, politicians, and policemen in a very prominent way. It's the State that is trying itself and its collusion with the mafia. Palermo prosecutors Antonio Ingroia and Nino Di Matteo were brave enough to take on the case and file the indictments against these very powerful figures.
According to them, it all started with the murder of Salvo Lima in 1992. Lima was the leader of the Sicilian Democratic Christian (DC) political party and right hand of prime minister Giulio Andreotti. His murder signalled the end of the collusion between Cosa Nostra and the DC party that lasted four decades. After his death, some politicians, including Andreotti and Mannino, feared for their own lives and they decided to help the Mafia in order to solve their problems.
The Mafiosi had gone to war because the famous Maxi-trial ended on January 1992 with harsh sentences for many leading members of Cosa Nostra. The trial even proved the existence of the criminal organization called Cosa Nostra for the first time in Italian history. Before that, the existence of Cosa Nostra as a structured organization was just a theoretical postulate, although there was proof of its existence since at least the late 1800s, that proof was periodically ignored.
Totò Riina (right) was the supreme leader of Cosa Nostra during this period. From the 1980s up until his arrest in 1993, he had risen to become the boss of the so called “Corleonesi”, a group of Mafiosi that has its origin in the town of Corleone. He would prove to be one of the most violent Mafia bosses in Italian history as he planned and orchestrated the murders of politicians, prosecutors, policemen, and hundreds of Mafiosi.
In the early 1990s, after the verdicts of the Maxi-trial, Riina started a bloody strategy. The strategy began in Sicily with the killing of Anti-Mafia prosecutors and politicians, and later continued on the Italian mainland, with bombs in Milan, Florence and Rome, in order to destabilize the credibility of the State. For these attacks to stop he made several demands, so-called “papello”, to the Italian State, which he sent through intermediaries to the highest levels of the Italian government. Among his demands were the abolition of the 41-bis law (maximum security imprisonment for mafia members), the abolition of the witness protection program, and the abolition of property seizures.
Though the governments has not given in to any of these demands, it is believed a truce was called between powerful politicians and the Sicilian Mafia. This trial aims to seek the truth and facts behind this truce and the negotiations that took place between the State and Cosa Nostra.
With the destroyed wiretaps it seems very few people in high positions are interested in knowing the truth.
Salvatore Riina: Vicious boss of bosses of the Sicilian Mafia who initiated the war on the State. Caught in 1993 he is currently serving multiple life sentences.
Antonino Cinà: Member of Cosa Nostra and inducted in the San Lorenzo (Palermo) crime family, he was the personal doctor of bosses Riina and Provenzano. According to prosecutors he personally wrote the list of demands (the so-called “papello”) to the State.
Leoluca Bagarella: Brother-in-law of Totò Riina, and, for a short period of time, boss of bosses himself. Upon Riina’s arrest in 1993, Cosa Nostra was divided into two large factions: The most violent was run by Leoluca Bagarella (left) and the other by Bernardo Provenzano. In 1993, through his friend Tullio Cannella, he formed the political party 'Sicilia Libera', a sort of separatist movement that aimed to liberate Sicily from the rest of Italy, but the plan failed because his arrest in 1995.
Giovanni Brusca: Son of Bernardo Brusca, boss of San Giuseppe Jato. He was his father's successor and he started cooperating with the government in 1996. He was very close to Totò Riina and an important member of the 'Corleonesi' faction. He was among the turncoats who gave information about the pact between the State and the Mafia at the beginning of the 1990s.
Marcello Dell’Utri: Sicilian born from Palermo, he's the former right hand of Silvio Berlusconi. In the 1970s, he moved to Milan where he become a friend of Berlusconi, who was a construction builder at the time. In order to prevent the kidnapping of Berlusconi's sons, Dell’Utri (right) told his friend Vittorio Mangano, a member of Cosa Nostra, to protect Berlusconi and his immediate family. Mangano then moved to Milan officially as a groom and lived near Berlusconi’s home. Dell’Utri also is a former executive of Publitalia, a major publicity's enterprise, and in 1993 he was among the founders of the Forza Italia Party, run by Silvio Berlusconi. In 1999 he was elected to the European Parliamentary and in 2001 he became a Senator of the Republic in the Forza Italia party, later called Party of Freedom (PDL). Prosecutors allege that starting in 1994, Dell’Utri functioned as an intermediary between the Mafia bosses and the newly elected prime minister Berlusconi. Cosa Nostra wanted to reduce the pressure of the government through the new politicians, after the collapse of the old political system, destroyed by inquiries and corruption.
Nicola Mancino: Born in Montefalcione, he was the head of the Democratic Christian Party in the Senate under the government of De Mita, interior minister from 1992 to 1994, and president of the Senate from 1996 to 2001. In 2012 he was charged in the Stato Mafia trial with perjury. According to prosecutors, in order to stop the trial he called the current President, Giorgio Napolitano, to ask him to put an end to it, but the wiretaps were destroyed at Napolitano’s request.
Calogero Mannino: Sicilian born from Sciacca, he was Minister of the Navy, Transport, and Agriculture in the 1980s, with the Democratic Christian party, under the Goria, De Mita, and Andreotti VI governments. In the 1990s, he was charged, and later acquitted, of mafia collusion. He is the only defendant who asked for the 'short trial', which cuts one third of the sentence if pleading guilty. According to the prosecutors, when he felt his life was in danger in the beginning of 1992, because Cosa Nostra wanted him dead, he met with the head of the Special Department of the Carabinieri (ROS), Antonio Subranni, and the Police Chief, Vincenzo Parisi, in order to open a link with Cosa Nostra and to plan a pact to stop the Mafia's violence. But the Mafiosi didn't want to deal with the old Democratic Christian politicians anymore, and so they continued the massacres, killing prosecutors Falcone and Borsellino.
Massimo Ciancimino (right): Sicilian born and son of Vito Ciancimino, who was the mayor of Palermo in the 1970s, and friends with the Corleonesi bosses. In 2009, he suddenly started declaring he gave a list of Riina's demands (the so-called 'papello'), which were hidden by his father in a safe, in order to stop the Mafia violence, to the Colonel Mario Mori, who denied receiving anything.
Antonio Subranni: He was a captain of the Special Department of Carabinieri (ROS) from 1990 to 1993. In 1995 he, together with defendants Mario Mori and Giuseppe De Donno, was charged with abetting the Mafia in order to prevent the arrest of the fugitive boss Bernardo Provenzano.
Mario Mori: Colonel of the Special Department of Carabinbieri (ROS) and, later, head of the National Secret Services (SISDE). After the killings of the Anti-Mafia prosecutors, he contacted Vito Ciancimino in order to find Riina through him and start talks about a pact. They met Ciancimino for some months, but it's not clear what they exactly said. On 15 January, 1993, he oversaw the arrest of boss Totò Riina. He had previously been a defendant in two other Mafia trials together with Carabinieri captains Antonio Subrannu and Mauro Obinu. In the first trial, he was charged with mafia abetting because, according to prosecutors, he had ordered not to search Riina's home after his arrest. But he was acquitted. In the other trial, he was charged with mafia abetting in 1995 in order to prevent the capture of fugitive Bernardo Provenzano, who became the boss of bosses of Cosa Nostra after the arrest of Riina and Bagarella.
Giuseppe De Donno: He was a captain of the Special Department of Carabinieri (ROS) and former right hand of the Colonel Mario Mori. He coordinated the arrest of Totò Riina. He is also known as 'Captain Ultimo', the code-name that he used when Riina was nabbed. He is very famous in Italy thanks to many television shows which depict his actions. In the past he was charged with mafia abetting together with Mario Mori, Antonio Subranni, and others, in two important mafia trials. He was accused of preventing the search of Riina’s home in order to avoid finding important documents and helping to prevent the capture of Bernardo Provenzano. The involvement in such trials of a famous anti-mafia hero like him, astonished many people.
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