Rupert Cornwell: Unsolved for 37 years - Whatever happened to Jimmy Hoffa?
A new lead into the disappearance of the union boss could solve one of America's greatest mysteries
JUST conceivably, beneath the drive of a modest bungalow-style house in the north-eastern suburbs of Detroit, there lies the answer to one of America's most enduring mysteries: what happened to Jimmy Hoffa? One of America's most powerful post-war union leaders, for 13 years the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Hoffa disappeared without trace on a summer afternoon more than 37 years ago, at a restaurant 22 miles east of where his remains might now be buried.
The general assumption is that he was victim of a Mafia killing. For decades the Teamsters, who drew their membership above all from the freight, shipping and transport sectors, were riddled with corruption and links to organised crime. Hoffa himself spent four years in prison after being convicted for bribery and fraud, before being pardoned in 1971 by President Richard Nixon, on the condition that he stay out of union activities until 1980.
But Hoffa was determined to regain control of the Teamsters, and far sooner than that. No-one has ever been charged in connection with his disappearance, but in a detailed 1976 report on the case, the FBI concluded he was killed on the orders of mob bosses who feared his return to power would threaten their control of the union's lucrative pension fund.