Italy's war against the Sicilian Mafia was crippled this week after two senior officers at the heart of anti-Mafia investigations in Palermo were arrested on suspicion of working secretly for the Mob.
One of the men, Giuseppe Ciuro, had been investigating alleged links between Marcello dell'Utri, a close friend of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the Mafia. The other, Giorgio Riolo, an expert in espionage technology, was supposed to be hunting Bernardo Provenzano, the capo di capi of the Sicilian Mafia, who has been on the run for 40 years. If Mr Riolo's guilt is proved it will help to explain why Provenzano has been able to evade justice for so long, without leaving Sicily.
A third man arrested, Michelle Aiello, one of Sicily's richest businessmen, is believed to have treated Provenzano for cancer at the hospital he runs near Palermo. It is also claimed that Mr Aiello has had dealings with the wife of Totto Cuffaro, governor of the Sicily region, who is under investigation on suspicion of involvement with the Mafia.
If the men are guilty as charged, it would explain the present eerie calm in Sicily, with the shootouts and daylight assassinations by rival Mafia clans in Palermo no more than a fading memory. "There are still godfathers," wrote Attilio Bolzoni in La Repubblica yesterday, "even if no one fires so much as a shot ... Everything is interconnected here in Sicily. Just like in the old days."
Both Mr Ciuro and Mr Riolo were said to have been the moles within the prosecutor's office who kept Mr Aiello informed of developments in the investigation against him. Mr Aiello has been named as "one of Provenzano's men" by the Mafia supergrass Antonino Giuffré. According to police in Palermo, Mr Ciuro was recorded passing on details of the interrogation of a Mafia informer who alleged links between Mr Aiello and Provenzano. It is believed that Mr Aiello passed the information he received from the prosecutor's office to Provenzano.
Mr Ciuro's role as an alleged double agent was exposed when he was found to be using a secret phone link, which was then tapped. Others within the prosecutor's office who are being investigated include the director of the anti-crime branch of Palermo, Giacomo Venezia, and the inspector of the flying squad, Carmelo Marranco.
There was consternation in the prosecutor's office after the arrests because several top prosecutors had no idea they were working with suspected Mafia agents until shortly before the men were taken to prison. A body frequently rent by rifts and accusations is likely to emerge from the latest rumpus more demoralised than ever. Only last week Italy's Home Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, was boasting that Provenzano's arrest was imminent.
Mr Berlusconi, who came to power in 2001 with a clean sweep of Sicilian constituencies for his party Forza Italia, has struggled to rebut claims that he is not committed to the fight against the Mafia. Recently an opposition leader, Luciano Violante of the Left Democrats, a former head of the Anti-Mafia Commission, said, "Today the Mafia is not afraid ... thanks to the Prime Minister."
It is a charge that attaches to politicians in Italy generation after generation: Giulio Andreotti, senator-for-life and seven times prime minister, is fighting a judgment that before 1980 he had connections with the Mob.
Attilio Bolzoni of La Repubblica observed: "The Mob have changed their clothes - underneath they are always the same. And always 'within'."Reuse content