by Carl Russo
Flush a toilet, thank “Diabolik."
Godfather Matteo Messina Denaro, the super-fugitive from Castelvetrano with a playboy rep, was stripped of $33 million of his estimated $390 billion fortune last week. The booty included a group of eighteen companies that came to light with the recent capture of a frontman for the elusive “Diabolik," proving that the control of public works is still in the black hand of the mob.
Construction contracts worth $65 million kept his concrete pouring at seaports, resorts, highways and even the Palermo airport. The flush of many a hotel toilet came courtesy of the boss’ waterworks.
My only question is, while attending the couscous festival in San Vito Lo Capo some years back, did I lodge at a Messina Denaro hotel or a Bernardo Provenzano hotel? Each boss had his grubby mitts on the beach town’s tourist trade at the time.
Montreal’s former “Teflon Don,” Vito Rizzuto, may be free to roam Canada after a five-year repose in a Colorado prison—extortion, murder accessory, the usual—but he’s still a wanted wanted man in Sicily. His crime was the attempt to launder money through the biggest public project of them all: the bridge that will link the island to the Italian mainland.
Last Wednesday, the regional court in nearby Agrigento chose a unique method for the redistribution of ill-gotten wealth. As Giuseppe Falsone—another playboy don of the Messina Denaro mold—begins a long prison stint, his assets will be doled out to the citizens of the region for “existential damages.”
The $130,000 payout will be existential, too, hopefully poured back into drained city coffers in the land of crumbling Greek temples, with another $3.25 million to be fought over later.
Hefty sentences were passed out this week to thirty Palermo racketeers who had worked for the “Re del pizzo" (“King of extortion"), Salvatore Lo Piccolo. As the imprisoned Provenzano’s heir apparent (and former partner in those San Vito hotels), Lo Piccolo was Sicily’s most-wanted fugitive in 2007, the year he was captured with his son Sandro in a Giardinello hideout. (Sandro, too, was a legendary Lothario; he counseled lovestruck mafiosi in the art of cunnilingus.)
Per Monday’s ruling, Sandro’s brother Calogero will be put away for nineteen years—quite a pinch for simply carrying on with the family business. Presumedly, he received the longest term of the condemned crowd for a) being a repeat offender and b) being a Lo Piccolo.
But wither Sandro’s youngest brother, Claudio, the only sibling with a “clean face,” according to the press? True, there was the time in 2008 when police put surveillance on his car wash to find out why all the municipal garbage trucks in Palermo rolled up for a hose job.
But Claudio played straight. His reputation for professionalism had made the car wash a hit. And when he had a billing problem, he bypassed his strong-arming family to do what a true Italian must—he called a bureaucrat. A very cooperative bureaucrat.