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Entries in Salvatore Cancemi (2)

Thursday
Jun092011

An Enemy Within?

by Bluto Ray

There was nothing supernatural about Judge Falcone’s death premonition; death was all around him. When he moved up the ladder from bankruptcy cases to Mafia prosecutions in 1979, the Palace of Justice in Palermo was still recovering from the assassination of its chief examiner, Cesare Terranova. The crime came two months after the murder of police chief Boris Giuliano and was followed three months later by that of Piersanti Mattarella, the President of Sicily. Then those of chief prosecutor Gaetano Costa (August, 1980) and Palermo’s prefect, General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa (May, 1982).

Giovanni FalconeGiovanni Falcone, the “super-judge” who transformed the Italian judicial system from a passive revolving door into an aggressive prosecutor, knew he would be taken out by the Mafia and freely admitted it. Falcone’s boss, Rocco Chinnici, who succeeded Terranova until the Mafia struck him down in 1983, had the same premonition and advised him to keep a diary until his own fateful day came. Falcone took the advice then charged ahead with the greatest Mafia indictment in history, the “maxi-trial” of 1986-87, which tried 475 members of the Cosa Nostra.

As he learned, Falcone’s instinctive ability to coax confessions from powerful Mafia bosses--our knowledge of Cosa Nostra largely comes from the explosive testimony of supergrass Tommaso Buscetta--created enemies on both sides of the law. The judge had fairly shrugged off two brushes with death during prison visits: he was taken hostage at a jailhouse riot in Trapani and nearly shot in Palermo’s notorious Ucciardone. But it was the bomb planted at a rented vacation house, its location known only to a few in his circle, that profoundly rattled him.

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Sunday
Feb062011

The Ties that Bind

by Bluto Ray

A minor Sicilian mystery was solved last week with the death of Salvatore Cancemi, a former Mafia boss who succumbed to cancer at the age of 69. He had disappeared with the help of the Italian state after making explosive accusations in 1993. His words still resonate in the ongoing investigation of criminal infiltration in politics that reaches as high as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Surprisingly, Cancemi had been living protected in his home town all these years.

Salvatore CancemiHe was part of a Palermo crime family that ran the Porta Nuova neighborhood in the shadow of Sicily’s Parliament building. At the time of his arrest the racketeer and heroin trafficker was believed to be worth $50 million and held a privileged seat on the Mafia Commission headed by godfather Totò Riina.

Cancemi later testified about Riina’s directive to hunt down the families of Mafia turncoats after his campaign of political assassinations: “My hair stood on end when Riina said that he had to kill women and children. He’s a mad dog that caused the Cosa Nostra to abandon all its values.” Cancemi later said, “Children have always been my life.

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