A Sicilian Mafioso, who in the 1990s decided to testify against his Cosa Nostra colleagues, was shot to death on Tuesday evening in a parking lot in Chiavari, a city in Northern Italy. 70-year-old Pino Orazio was allegedly killed by a bullet to the neck fired from close range.
Orazio was known to park his car there frequently, which leads authorities to believe his killer was waiting for him. The spot is near Orazio’s jewelry business Isola Preziosa, which he ran with his wife and daughters and started in 2009 after he decided to leave the witness protection program.
A Mafia war and testifying about it
He had enjoyed the program’s protection ever since he had become a witness against the Mafia in Catania, Sicily, in the 1990s. The area was under the control of infamous mob boss Benedetto “Nitto” Santapaola (right), who had forged close ties to the Corleonesi run by Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano.
Santapaola was arrested in 1993 after 11 years as a fugitive and was sentenced to life for a long list of crime, which included the murders of General Dalla Chiesa, and anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. In his absence, his family fought a violent war for control of the area against the Cappello and Mazzeo clans, causing hundreds to die.
It was Orazio who at this time decided to become a pentito, a government witness, and help police piece together the puzzle of violence and destruction brought on by the Mafia war.
Questions about motive
Though his murder on Tuesday evening has all the earmarks of a Mafia hit, investigators feel there could be other motives behind the killing. As the owner of a jewelry shop this could’ve been a robbery gone bad. Resentment within his own family could also be a reasoning for his death, they say. Then there is the business angle as well. In March of 2018, a former business partner accused him of stealing jewelry from him.
Further complicating things, is that no shell casings were found. Police can thus not exclude the use of another murder weapon, like a knife or an ice pick. To know more they are currently watching footage of security cameras nearby.
Mafia turncoats under deadly threat
The fact remains that a Mafia snitch was killed. And in recent years more and more have been found dead. Last year on Christmas Day, the brother of a ‘Ndrangheta turncoat was riddled with bullets by hitmen.
Italy’s witness protection program is facing increasing problems. With the country’s economy going through hard times, far-right deputy prime minister and interior minister Matteo Salvini said in March that his ministry would review the budget and spending on police protection for those threatened by the Mafia.
“We are dead men walking”
“Ignazio Cutrò, a Sicilian businessman and president of the National Association of State Witnesses, received numerous threats, including torched cars and packages containing bullets, after agreeing to testify against suspected extortionists and entering witness protection. Despite the intimidation, last year protection for him and his family was revoked,” journalist Lorenzo Tondo wrote in The Guardian about the damage budget cuts are doing to Italy’s witness protection program.
“Italy is pushing people to rebel against the mafia,” Cutrò tells him. “But when the state gets what it wants, it abandons them. We are a bunch of dead men walking.”
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