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Entries in Porta Nuova (2)

Saturday
Dec172011

Plus Ça Change

by Bluto Ray

The rest of Italy may be falling apart under the eurozone crisis, but the agents of Sicily’s anti-Mafia police have been busy earning their Alfa Romeos. Big busts—the kind that steal headlines and inspire politicians to speechify—have been coming in rapid-fire succession. Whether the clans of the island are being “decapitated” (to use a favored term of the Italian press) or just being set back remains to be seen. But details emerging from current investigations point to the stubborn entrenchment of the Mafia in Sicilian society.

Enzo FragalàThere’s a persistence of irony as infuriating as amusing to news like the tidbit from Wednesday’s predawn capture of twenty-eight mafiosi around Palermo. On the sucker’s list of businesses extorted by the controlling gang of the Porta Nuova district is, allegedly, the production company of Squadra antimafia, a TV crime-soaper which enjoys high ratings on a Berlusconi network.

Neighborhood boss Calogero Lo Presti and his boys provided transportation, food and even cocaine to the cast and crew, according to the informant Monica Vitale, a former Mafia “tax collector” and ex-girlfriend of an imprisoned boss. (The real-life cops recorded a phoned complaint to the dealer who couriered the nose candy by scooter: “My ‘photocopy’ isn’t as good as those other ‘photocopies.’ How come?”) And just like a strong-arm union rule, the producers were forced to install a gang member on the crew.

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Friday
Apr292011

Keeper of Secrets

by Carl Russo

On the morning of May 5, 1971, at headquarters in Palermo, the police received an anonymous call: “A shooting has happened in Via dei Cipressi. Maybe two are dead.”

Pietro Scaglione

Within minutes, the Flying Squad pulled into the cypress-lined road leading to the Cemetery of the Cappuccini. A state car blocked the entrance to the necropolis, pockmarked with bullet holes. Two bodies were pulled out and rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. When the frightful news spread that Pietro Scaglione, Palermo's chief public prosecutor, was killed along with his driver, many observers confirmed their suspicion that he was connected to the mob. At the time, the Mafia was only murdering its own.

Pietro Scaglione’s forty-three-year career spanned the evolution of the Cosa Nostra from rural phenomenon to international menace. Rising through the judicial ranks to take the top post at the Palace of Justice in 1962, he waded through the murky waters of Sicilian conspiracies: super-bandit Salvatore Giuliano’s involvement in the Portella della Ginestra massacre of 1947, the police slaughter of Ciaculli in 1963. But Judge Scaglione tended to sit on his findings—deliberately, some said—and often had to be goaded into prosecuting a case.

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