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Entries in Agrigento (3)

Sunday
Oct072012

News Muse 10.7.12

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.

Matteo Messina DenaroConstruction 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.

Click to see the photosRizzuto will have to return to his native Cattolica Eraclea eventually, at the end of the long day, where he will spend eternity in a concrete crypt. Who gets that cement job?

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.

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Saturday
May072011

Pompous Circumstance

by Bluto Ray

Some years ago, an old man opened a musty little shop of Mussolini souvenirs in the abandoned ruins of lower Ragusa. All your Fascist needs were priced and on display, from a painted antique trunk commemorating the dictator to postcards depicting his visit to the baroque city to black cigarette lighters bearing his face. In the collective memory of Sicilians, the Fascist reign over the island was an epoch of extreme repression and violence that followed Mussolini’s 1922 inauguration as the Prime Minister of Italy. But many old-timers still hold a flame for the Blackshirts who struck a decisive blow against the Mafia.

Cesare MoriThe crime bosses enjoyed a boost of prestige as the politicians they controlled were courted by early Fascists eager to align themselves with Palermo’s conservative leaders. But Mussolini’s suspension of electoral democracy in 1925 suddenly choked off their access to local politics.

Sicily was an unruly child in the mind of the Duce, and the only cure would be the firm hand of Fascist discipline. His methods had subdued the left-wing parties of the north--a success that increased support for him on the mainland. But reforming Sicily was essential if the strongman were to realize his dream of a totalitarian state. He had caught a glimpse of the island’s unique power structure a year earlier on the official state tour that passed through Ragusa.

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Thursday
Mar312011

Hit and Miss

by Bluto Ray

In the mid-1980s, the “excellent cadavers” were starting to pile up. Investigative judge Carlo Palermo had already lost two distinguished colleagues to Mafia assassins: Colonel Giuseppe Russo and Judge Giangiacomo Montalto. Palermo took on the cartels while stationed in the northern Italian city of Trento. There he uncovered a vast international drug and arms operation that sparked a bribery scandal in Parliament.

Barbara Rizzo AstaCertain higher powers apparently found the dedicated servant to be a little too efficient: all of his investigations were ordered closed. Frustrated, Palermo transferred to the Sicilian port city of Trapani to take the place of the murdered Judge Montalto.

Certainly nobody else wanted the job in the Mafia infested region. In those days, the hilly northwest region of the island hid a number of factories busily refining Turkish heroin for the American market. The 38-year-old judge arrived with a list of thirty or so mafiosi he had connected to trafficking and other crimes. It took only two weeks for the Mafia to throw him a welcoming party.

On the morning of April 2, 1985, Judge Palermo was being whisked down the coastal highway from a military base to his Trapani office in an armored Fiat 132. Following close behind were his bodyguards in an unprotected Fiat Ritmo. Waiting for the tiny entourage was a Volkswagen Golf parked by the side of the road in the beach town of Pizzolungo. It was empty except for the nearly fifty pounds of dynamite inside set to detonate by remote control.

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