Thursday 26 April 2018

'Mafia planned to kill me next in 1992'

Piero Grasso. Photo: AP
Piero Grasso. Photo: AP

Francis D'Emilio in Rome

The president of the Italian Senate revealed last night that the Mafia's "boss of bosses" allegedly had targeted him to be assassinated next after twin bomb blasts killed Italy's two leading Sicilian magistrates.

Italian Senate President Piero Grasso served as a judge for the Mafia trial in the 1980s that yielded convictions for hundreds of mobsters. Among them was top Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore 'Toto' Riina, then a fugitive who was tried in absentia.

Grasso told La Stampa newspaper that Mafia turncoats had revealed that Riina - who died last Friday aged 87 in a prison hospital - ordered a hit on him in 1992.

Investigators have said Riina commanded the Mafia during 23 years on the run. Grasso said the mob boss targeted him after prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed by bomb attacks that year.

The alleged plot called for Grasso to be killed by a remotely detonated bomb in Monreale, Sicily, where he frequently visited family, the Senate president said.

Grasso recounted that a nearby bank's alarm system interfered with the bomb's timer and so the assassination attempt was abandoned.

"There was the danger that the bomb would explode when it shouldn't have," Grasso said. "Then, in January [1993], Riina was captured, and that's why I'm here today to recount you this."

Riina was serving 26 life sentences when he died. He was convicted of some 100 murders, many masterminded by him to eliminate rival Mafia bosses, according to prosecutors. Before his capture, he also targeted police investigators, prosecutors and others.

His widow, Antonina Bagarella, arrived yesterday in Parma, a city in northern Italy, where an autopsy was performed on her husband. Other family members came to the morgue and daughter Maria Concetta shooed away journalists.

The archbishop of the diocese that includes Riina's Sicilian hometown of Corleone has ruled out a church funeral for the late crime kingpin, calling him a "public sinner". However, he left open the possibility of a private prayer service in the Corleone cemetery.

A sister of slain prosecutor Falcone hailed the decision to prohibit a public funeral service. Maria Falcone told reporters at an event in Milan yesterday that along with a trail of bloodshed, Riina "leaves so many secrets he didn't want to reveal".

"I don't rejoice over Toto Riina's death, but I don't forgive him," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Falcone as saying, "because he never asked to be forgiven."

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