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Entries in Bernardo Provenzano (21)

Sunday
Apr062014

Last Days of the Lo Piccolos, part 1

A two-part look at the rise and fall of a father-and-son Mafia team

by Carl Russo

Salvatore Lo PiccoloGASPARE PULIZZI WAS DIGGING at a plate of tortellini with sea bass when a car pulled up to his house. Inside the vehicle were two men, one freshly killed, and Pulizzi was told he’d been assigned to bury him by the bosses responsible for the murder: Salvatore Lo Piccolo and his son Sandro.

The dead man was racketeer Giovanni Bonanno, the son of tough Palermo gangster Armando Bonanno, who had disappeared when Giovanni was still a teen. Now it was Giovanni's turn to vanish, into the soil of a makeshift Mafia graveyard by the freeway a few miles west of Palermo. Pulizzi, following orders, stepped into the car.

Giovanni Bonanno had been in desperate straits during Christmas of 2005. Fallen into debt and out of favor with the Lo Piccolos and fellow bosses of the Madonia family, the 36-year-old extortioner’s regular shakedowns of shopkeepers were now met with, “We already paid somebody else.” Bonanno was not only unable to meet his obligation to support the families of imprisoned mafiosi, he was also suspected of embezzling mob funds. Just as serious, he stood accused of calling Salvino Madonia’s son the fruit of an affair carried on behind the boss’s back.

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Friday
Feb072014

Sacred and Profane: The Heavens Open Above a Mafia Stronghold

The Sistine Chapel of Sicily is restored after 46 years in the dark, and Riina sings (by accident)

by Carl Russo

Totò RiinaTRAVELERS FOLLOWING the itineraries of my new book, The Sicilian Mafia: A True Crime Travel Guide, might be surprised to encounter something beautiful in Castelvetrano, a city darkened by its criminal history. Notorious as the place where the bandit Salvatore Giuliano was gunned down, and now the home base of fugitive boss Matteo Messina Denaro, the Castelvetranesi can be proud of one thing: they’ve got the Sistine Chapel of Sicily.

Beginning today, the first time since the great quake of 1968 forced its closure, worshippers and wanderers alike may behold one of the finest spectacles the Late Renaissance has to offer: a sixteenth-century masterpiece by Antonino Ferraro of Giuliana, Sicily.

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Wednesday
Jan152014

Mean Cuisine: Why Mafia, Meat and Murder Go Together

Take the gun, try the cannoli

by Carl Russo

Salvatore InzerilloMAFIA BOSSES WORK BEST on a full stomach, notes Michael Day in Sunday’s The Independent. He brings up a banquet held six years ago in Palermo’s Zen district, a traditional Mafia stronghold. An excerpt from my new book describes that gathering of Sicilian bosses at the Villa Pensabene:

 

As lookouts circled the premises on scooters, fifteen mobsters strolled in, a mixture of old blood and new. A Sicilian antipasto of chickpea fritters and oysters whetted their appetites for the daylong champagne luncheon.

The business agenda was full that day: infiltrating jobs at the city’s new soccer stadium, vengeance for past offenses and, most important, forming a new Mafia Commission now that godfathers Bernardo Provenzano and Salvatore Lo Piccolo had been arrested.

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Saturday
Oct052013

Klieg Light in the Piazza

by Carl Russo

MY LOCAL VIDEO STORE has something Netflix doesn’t: a beautifully rendered bootleg DVD of The Day of the Owl (a.k.a. Il Giorno della Civetta, a.k.a. Mafia; 1968). I’ve waited years to see this filmed version of Sicilian author Leonardo Sciascia’s greatest work. Considered the first accurate depiction of the Mafia in fiction, the crime novel was a hot controversy when it was published in 1961—years before the existence of the criminal organization was officially acknowledged in Italy.

Leonardo SciasciaThe film has all the trappings of a sixties international co-production: a widescreen format, slightly garish Technicolor, a dub job of varying accents and an international cast. The Hollywood name attached to the project was Lee J. Cobb, the great heavy who plays untouchable godfather Don Mariano Arena. His American-accented baritone is the only original voice you hear in this English-language version of the film. (I’d like to see and hear the Italian version as well, but then I’d lose Cobb’s essence.)

Claudia Cardinale plays the wife of a disappeared Mafia lackey. Fending for herself, she expresses fear, rage and dignity at once with a furrowing of her brow. (The sixties icon, born of Sicilian parents in Tunisia, commanded the screen five years earlier as the demure Angelica in a more famous coproduction, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, based on Tomasi di Lampedusa’s celebrated Sicilian novel).

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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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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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