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Entries in Matteo Messina Denaro (15)

Saturday
Aug152015

It’s the Cheese: Why We Love Our Mafia Shin-Deep in Sheep Dip

The ingredient that gives Mafia news that old-world flavor

by Carl Russo

I CAN TELL A CERTAIN news item about the Italian Mafia has gone really big as soon as friends and relatives start sending me the media links. Often these reports of arrests, attacks, and assassinations come with an exotic flair that conforms to our stereotypical view of the mob. Without a touch of the Hollywood—secret initiation rites, a bullet between the eyes—the news doesn’t travel beyond Italy. But when there’s an element of food involved, especially cheese, the story sprouts legs and takes off running.

“I’ve put the ricotta aside for you,” was the opening quote in several news articles about the media-dubbed “Mafia sheep code” that went viral this month. That statement and similar ciphers, recorded by police wiretaps, were made by a pair of Sicilian sheep grazers whenever a message from fugitive godfather Matteo Messina Denaro was ready for pickup. The two shepherds and nine other accomplices were arrested on August 3, the culmination of a five-year investigation and the latest roundup in actions that have bagged the capomafia’s sister, cousin and various in-laws.

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Wednesday
Jul012015

Lucky Luciana: Daughter of Boss Messina Denaro to Be Married in London, Says Tipster

Leaked details include bejeweled invitation to luxe affair

by Carl Russo

Matteo Messina DenaroTHE RECLUSIVE DAUGHTER of Italy’s most-wanted gangster will be married in London this September, according to a tip received by Mafia Exposed. While details remain unconfirmed, the source claims to be close to the bride, and has forwarded materials related to the event.

UK resident Luciana is said to be thirty years old and the eldest daughter of Sicilian godfather Matteo Messina Denaro, a.k.a. Diabolik, a multibillionaire sought since 1993 for Mafia crimes that include drug trafficking and murder.

The fugitive Messina Denaro is the target of Italy’s most intense manhunt, and for that reason is not expected to give away Luciana to one Gordon at the ceremony.

But might the reception afterward be the UK underworld’s fête of the year? Former London jewel thief Jimmy Tippett Jr. tipped it, if you will, with a Facebook boast. “You know your going up in the world,” wrote the author of the memoir Born Gangster, “when you get personally invited to billionaire Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro’s daughter Luciana’s wedding.”

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Sunday
Mar012015

Sicily’s Scarface: Is This Retired Cop a Former Mafia Hit Man?

Numerous witnesses place a man “with the face of a monster” at the scene of notorious Mafia crimes. Most agree he worked on behalf of Italian Secret Services.

by Carl Russo

Giovanni AielloACROSS FROM PALERMO’S palm and plane-shrouded Piazza della Vittoria lie the headquarters of Sicily’s state police department, accessible to authorized personnel through an arched entrance in a stately old villa. This genteel setting can turn in an instant to a scene of pandemonium following the arrest of a Mafia boss; squadrons of police cars, sirens screaming and lights strobing, descend upon the station like a military blitz. Crowds of citizens who’ve heard the news gather to cheer as one or another godfather of notoriety is frogmarched through the archway by his hooded captors.

It was during a moment of quiet at the department, in early 2014, when a 48-year-old Sicilian woman approached the armed guards stationed just inside the archway. Her ordinary appearance belied her pedigree as Mafia royalty. She was Giovanna Galatolo, daughter of a dynastic clan that controlled Palermo’s lucrative produce market for more than half a century. Her father, brothers, uncles and cousins were integral pieces of a killing machine that eradicated a slew of police officials and judges back when when capomafia Totò Riina ran the Sicilian mob, a generation ago. Now Giovanna was ready to betray her family to the police. “My life is my own,” she told a magistrate. “They can’t control me.”

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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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Thursday
Dec192013

Unsung Heroes, Unstrung Hooligans

A beating by the Mafia didn’t change the mind of one stubborn shopkeeper


by Carl Russo

OUR FASCINATION with the Mafia is in part a leer at the organization’s endless capacity to apply brute force in creative ways. To wit, last month’s story of a screaming victim tossed to ravenous pigs. But we’re also drawn to Mafia stories for the old good/evil dichotomy, Davids versus Goliaths armed to the teeth and cruel.

Giovanni BruscaOne news story with classical overtones is set in Noce, a traffic-snarled quarter of Palermo known as a Mafia stronghold since the late nineteenth century. A series of police crackdowns between October 2012 and March 2013 rid the local business community of pesky extortioners—for a few months, anyway. Cosa Nostra abhors a power vacuum: a new set of “tax collectors” soon descended on Noce merchants, demanding the pizzo—“protection” payments.

Those who hesitated to pay were duly punished, among them an artisanal carpenter who lost his Alfa Romeo to arson and was shot in the leg. Reporters noted that the new Mafia leader behind the attacks, 37-year-old Giuseppe Castelluccio, was also a carpenter. That irony grew darker with another reprisal against a holdout merchant, this time involving a blunt tool essential to the craft trade. But let’s take it back to last summer

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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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