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Sunday
Sep082013

Daughters of Darkness

by Carl Russo

CIAK! Sicilian supremodel Eva Riccobono’s latest comments about her home town have caused anti-Mafia leaders to wish she’d practiced omertà: “I go to Palermo once a month to recharge my batteries,” she told Italian Vanity Fair, “but some things about the Palermitans I don’t like, like the Mafia mentality. I hate the ones who always complain and expect favoritism [la raccomandazione], and especially family tribalism [familismo] and harassment.”

Ninetta BagarellaSpecial Anti-Mafia Commission president Sonia Alfano shot back: “What [Riccobono] said about Palermitans is very serious and ungenerous, for several reasons. To say that the Mafia mentality is dominant in Palermo is a sign of profound ignorance and superficiality.”

As the daughter of journalist Beppe Alfano, murdered by a clan of Messina province, Ms. Alfano is justifiably attentive to how the anti-Mafia struggle is framed. This center-left politician is a reliably trenchant talking head on legal and historical matters of Mafia.

But Alfano and others who object to Palermo’s characterization as a backwater of patronage seem to miss the point. It’s all too easy to mistake a fashion model’s candor for “superficiality.” Despite the strong gains of activists, the arrests of numerous bosses and the seizure of their considerable assets, Palermo is not yet rid of the Mafia. One need only read the dozens of online comments left by frustrated residents below reports of the model's indiscretion. These can be summed up in four words: “Eva speaks the truth!”

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Thursday
Aug082013

Mad Dons and Englishmen

by Carl Russo

THE NEWS WIRES are burning about today’s capture of Domenico Rancadore, a convicted Mafia boss who skipped Sicily to become a travel agent in the UK. I thought the Internet had rendered that profession obsolete, but, apparently, booking holidays was enough to let Rancadore cruise the streets of London in Jags and Mercedes (Mercedeses?). Unless he had some side bets going.

Bernardo ProvenzanoI learned something about jolly ole England from this news: Mafia association is not a crime there. It wasn’t a crime in Italy either until a string of high-profile assassinations compelled Parliament to pass restrictive laws, in 1982. That would explain why the news agency ANSA could report the following: “Convicted of Mafia association and sentenced to six years incarceration, Mafia boss Domenico Rancadore, 62, is living in London with his wife and two children, say Italian police.” The article was dated eighteen months ago!

An interesting coincidence about this ill-tempered mobster known as “u profissuri”—“the professor”: like his fellow Caccamo boss Nino Giuffrè, Rancadore was a teacher-turned-mafioso. Giuffrè became a pentito—a witness for the state—and gave authorities a wealth of information about Corleone godfather Bernardo Provenzano’s underground business empire. I’d put money on Rancadore’s turning pentito, too, if only to save his own culo.

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Sunday
Jul072013

Kicked to the Curb

by Carl Russo

PALERMO SOCCER STAR Fabrizio Miccoli apologized to his city, to his family and to the family of Giovanni Falcone for calling the slain anti-Mafia prosecutor “filth.” The word he used, captured on an intercepted phone call, was “fango”—literally "mud.” But when used as invective, it means something closer to “merda.”

Fabrizio MiccoliThe blasphemy was the tipping point for the pudgy-in-pink captain of Palermo's Serie A team, a goal-kicking striker (Italians prefer the English term “bomber”) already under investigation for alleged Mafia association and attempted extortion. “He needs a change of scenery,” said Palermo soccer president Maurizio Zamparini, who declined to renew Miccoli's contract when it expired June 30.

Miccoli’s red-card foul came after the discovery of his very close friendship with Mauro Lauricella, son of Palermo boss Antonino Lauricella, a.k.a U Scintilluni (“the Big Shiny Guy,” for his polished shoes), whose September 2011 arrest was a festive occasion. The 33-year-old Miccoli is charged with sending Lauricella Junior to shake down tardy creditors. Miccoli readily admits to his brotherly bond with Lauricella but claims ignorance of the man's Mafia links. Frank Sinatra made the same claim about his pal Lucky Luciano.

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Thursday
Jun132013

A Boy and His Toys

by Carl Russo

Gaspare Spatuzza let spill yesterday that the Mafia experimented with remote-controlled drones for use against enemies. The reformed hit man (and killer of the now canonized priest Pino Puglisi) said of his drone field tests: "We needed to learn how to pilot it and steer it towards targets, loading it with a modest amount of explosives."

Gaspare SpatuzzaMafia authority John Dickie tweeted about the news report: "Worthy but bit desperate stab at new angle on mafia." He's right: the idea of Spatuzza testing flying bombs is, like, wow, but it's not substantial news. The Mafia, thanks in part to him, accomplished much more mayhem and murder with terra-bound dynamite.

Besides, every time this pentito opens his mouth his words end up on newsprint. Like when he told a court that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his longtime sidekick, Senator Marcello Dell'Utri, had "practically placed the country in our hands."

But Spatuzza is worth listening to: Dell'Utri began serving a seven-year prison sentence for Mafia association in March and Berlusconi faces jail time for everything from tax evasion to sex with a minor—not that he'll ever set his golden culo on a cell bunk.

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Saturday
Jun082013

Strange Breadfellows

by Carl Russo

Giovanni FalconeA TAVOLA! The Corriere della Sera reports on the tasteless pub grub of a Vienna eatery inspired by both The Godfather movies and the slain anti-Mafia heroes of Sicily. The name of the establishment? Don Panino, of course, where the menu offers the Don Peppino, a sandwich based on the murdered activist Giuseppe Impastato. The dish is described as “a loud-mouthed Sicilian cooked by a bomb like a barbecued chicken.”

The pièce de résistance is the Don Falcone—a dubious tribute to Sicily's beloved Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, blown up in 1992. It's a pork sausage that comes with the legend: “He earned himself the title of the greatest rival of the Mafia in Palermo, but unfortunately he will be grilled like a wurst.” Makes your mouth just water, doesn't it?

Someone was offended enough to launch an online petition protesting Don Panino's “advertising strategy on the glorification of awful crimes perpetrated by the Mafia in Italy.” At the time of this writing, the restaurant's website is down.

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Wednesday
May292013

Deal Me In

by Carl Russo

Italy’s trial of the century will probably last for another century. But, unlike past Mafia trials that prosecuted hundreds of mobsters at the same time, this one is down to only ten defendants. And they're not only mafiosi but also high-placed public officials who are being charged.

Nicola MancinoThe crime? Brokering a secret deal in the early 1990s: in exchange for lighter punishments for its members, the Mafia would stop killing so many of those high-placed public officials. You can read the details of the historic trial—the so-called Trattativa (Negotiation)—here.

This video was shot outside the Palermo courtroom hosting the trial. Nicola Mancino, Italy's Interior Minister during the years of the alleged Trattatvia, is jeered by protestors shouting, "Shame! Shame!"

Mancino is accused of hiding evidence of the covert talks from prosecutors. Earlier, on the stand, he bristled at appearing "in the same trial as the Mafia," i.e., in the company of reviled godfathers like Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. Mancino wants to star in his own trial, maybe?

Those red books being waved by the demonstrators represent Judge Paolo Borsellino's missing journal, swiped from the wreckage of his assassination site twenty years ago.

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