FBI digs to end the riddle of Hoffa's missing body

More than 30 years have passed since the Teamster union boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared at the Machus Red Fox restaurant, but for the second day yesterday, a horse farm in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, was being dug up by a forensic team led by the FBI.

Hoffa, 62, was last seen in 1975 in Bloomfield Township, where he was due to meet with the Detroit Mafia street enforcer Anthony Giacalone, who died of kidney failure at the age of 82 in 2004 , and Anthony Provenzano, a local Teamster official in New Jersey, who died several years ago after being convicted in another murder case.

Hoffa believed Giacalone had set up the meeting to help settle a feud between himself and Provenzano, but Hoffa was the only one who showed up. Giacalone and Provenzano later told the FBI that no meeting had been scheduled.

The Michigan farm which has became the centre of the investigation into Hoffa's disappearance is about 20 miles from the Red Fox, where he was last seen alive. It is rumoured that Hoffa may have been buried somewhere on its land.

Yesterday, police officers used a digger to search for his remains, but said little about the new lead that had galvanised them into action. Aerial footage of the scene showed at least 15 people outside a barn digging a rectangular hole.

For years, there have been rumours in the area about what might have happened at a barn on the horse farm where organised crime figures used to meet. Deb Koskovich recalled to the Associated Press how a neighbour told her that Hoffa was buried on the farm when she moved next door some 20 years ago.

"He laughed and we laughed and that was the end of that," Ms Koskovich, 52, said yesterday. "I never thought about it again until today, so apparently there have been rumours."

A search warrant being executed by federal agents said that they were looking for "the human remains of James Riddle Hoffa". Officials said the search was based on information only recently verified. That information indicated there was a high level of suspicious activity on the farm the day Hoffa vanished, the official said. He added that the barn frequented by gangsters was never used again after Hoffa disappeared.

Hoffa had been aggressively investigated in the 1960s for corruption by the then attorney general Robert F Kennedy, and was imprisoned in 1967 for looting the pension fund of the long-haul truckers' union and jury-tampering. President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence in 1971.

"The search warrant is based on a lead which is one of numerous leads received through the years following the disappearance of Mr Hoffa on 30 July 1975," an FBI agent, Daniel Roberts, said in a written statement.

About 10 FBI officials and local police were hunting for "evidence of criminal activity that may have occurred when the properties were under previous ownership," Mr Roberts said.

"It's kind of been a long ordeal - 30 years," said an FBI spokesman, Terry Booth. "[It] involved the Teamsters with Hoffa so we would just like to put it to bed, so to speak."

Through the years, police and FBI officials have received numerous tips relating to Hoffa's whereabouts, but none closed the case. The body has never been found and nobody has been charged with the killing.

The last search for Hoffa was conducted in 2004, when investigators searched a Detroit home after an informant claimed Hoffa was killed there. Investigators ruled that blood found in the house was not Hoffa's.

The FBI said at the time that the disappearance could have been linked to Hoffa's efforts to regain power in the Teamsters after serving time in prison and its effect on the mob's control of the union's pension funds.

Hoffa's son, James P Hoffa, is the current president of the Teamsters.