Mafia's link to Colombian cartel is revealed

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The Independent Online

The most senior Sicilian mafioso to turn informer has told FBI agents in Palermo that the Italian Mafiaprovided Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel in Colombia with advice on military strategy.

The most senior Sicilian mafioso to turn informer has told FBI agents in Palermo that the Italian Mafiaprovided Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel in Colombia with advice on military strategy.

Antonino Giuffre, former right-hand man of Bernardo Provenzano, the reigning capo di capi of Cosa Nostra who has been wanted by the police for more than 40 years, claimed in testimony - leaked to the Italian press this week - that the Sicilian Mafia also had close relations with their US cousins.

Heroin flowed from Sicily to the five main crime families of New York, in exchange for dollars and weapons, he told the FBI, which is Palermo building a case on the families.

"In the old days, the bosses [from the two countries] used to meet during baptisms, weddings and sadly also at funerals," he said. "But since the arrival of spy cameras and other electronic gadgets, these meetings have died out." Instead, discreet "messengers" cross the oceans, bearing polite greetings from their chiefs.

Giuffre sketched a previously unsuspected role for the Sicilian gangsters back in the 1980s. He claimed that during the rule of capo di capi Toto Riina, the hyper-violent Mafia boss responsible for ordering the murders of the investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992, the Mafia also had "a very important role in the strategy of the Colombian guerrilla war" conducted by Escobar's Medellin gang, acting as "military advisers" to the Colombians.

He claimed the Sicilian Mafia's interests in the drug trade in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the Far East were managed by a gangster called Vito Roberto Palazzolo, currently on trial in Palermo.

Bernardo Provenzano is credited with having ordered the Mafia to stop killing people and thereby ensured its survival. Mafia watchers in Sicily believe Provenzano's iron grip has enabled the mob to recover its wealth and influence despite its renunciation of homicide.

Guiffre said relations with the New York families and other Mafia in the US were kept cordial through a relative called Johnny Stanfa, a Sicilian-born US immigrant who became head of the mob in Philadelphia.

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