Italy reels on political links to top Mafia godfathers
PROSECUTORS in Palermo have indicted 12 men for alleged Mafia crimes, including the two most feared recent heads of Cosa Nostra and a former Interior Minister, in a case that has once again turned the spotlight on the relationship between Italian politics and organised crime.
The 12 indicted this week are arraigned on charges ranging from Mafia association to threats to the body politic. But behind all the accusations lies the same imperative, one which has stained and shamed much of the political history of post-war Italy: a compulsion on the part of political leaders to reach accommodation with organised criminals who over and over proved themselves too ruthless, determined and united for the state to put them behind bars.
The highest-profile name on the charge sheet is Nicola Mancino. Now 81, Mr Mancino, who was Interior Minister at the time in question, went on to become Speaker of the Senate, the second highest position in the state.
The charge sheet alleges secret talks between the Italian state and the Mafia in the early 1990s aimed at bringing a campaign of murder and bombing to an end. Mr Mancino is alleged to have withheld evidence revealing the existence of the talks. After the indictment was published he commented that he would prove his innocence and "loyalty to the state".
But the case and its implications were brought up to date when it emerged from wiretaps earlier this month that Mr Mancino had telephoned President Giorgio Napolitano to urge him to get Italy's chief anti-Mafia prosecutor involved in the case -- in an attempt, it appeared, to derail the local Palermo prosecutors' decision to indict him. The effort has clearly failed.
The murder in 1993 by the Sicilian Mafia of the courageous anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, followed a couple of months later by that of his close colleague Paolo Borsellino, revealed the Sicilian gangsters at their most ruthless. By killing the men who had been most effective in challenging the Mob's power, the then capo di capi Salvatore 'Toto' Riina threw a gauntlet down to the state.
Also indicted is Marcello dell'Utri, minister of defence in Silvio Berlusconi's first government and co-founder of his first political party, Forza Italia.
Despite winning a recent legal victory against Mafia association charges, a disturbing new wrinkle was added to Mr dell'Utri's CV last month when he went on trial accused of having extorted huge sums from Mr Berlusconi as the price of silence about the latter's claimed Mafia links. Mr dell'Utri denies the charges.
The other politician on the list of indictments is Calogero Mannino. Far better known are the mafiosi indicted, who include Luca Bagarella and Giovanni Brusca, both serving life sentences. (© Independent News Service)