Security increased for anti-Mafia prosecutor after informant reveals Cosa Nostra plans to assassinate him with a bazooka

Palermo magistrate Nino Di Matteo is currently leading the prosecution of 10 former state officials following a probe into state-Mafia negotiations in the 1990s

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The Independent Online

Security for Italy’s most at-risk prosecutor has been stepped up, after claims that Cosa Nostra bosses have plans to assassinate him with a bazooka.

Palermo magistrate Nino Di Matteo was already under a strengthened armed guard after death threats emerged last year from the jailed ex-boss of bosses, Toto Riina.

The magistrate is currently leading the prosecution of 10 former state officials following a probe into state-Mafia negotiations, which were prompted by Riina’s bombing campaign, in the early 1990s. Experts, and Mr Di Matteo himself, say this probe lies behind the threats to his life.

But in the past few days new revelations have emerged from a senior Cosa Nostra informant, said to have been involved in the plot, suggesting the Mafia is considering the use of explosives in Palermo, or Kalashnikov rifles or even a shoulder-held rocket-launcher in Rome, to kill Mr Di Matteo.

It is reported that he has been assigned an armoured military vehicle for his personal transport.

Vittorio Teresi, a colleague of Mr Di Matteo in the Palermo prosecutor’s office, told La Repubblica newspaper: “We’re frightened. I admit it. They say the explosives are ready. Put yourselves in our shoes. This news is causing great anxiety and stress for our families too. But we’re ready to fight on.”

Palermo’s deputy chief prosecutor, Leonardo Agueci, said the danger was “real and present”. “We’re following it with great concern and determination,” he said.

 

This morning, Mr Di Matteo, a married, 53-year-old father of two, was returning to the heavily fortified bunker courtroom at Palermo’s Ucciardone prison, to interrogate Mafia turncoat Angelo Siino, Cosa Nostra’s “ex-minister of public works”, on the secret state-Mob negotiations.

The clandestine talks of 22 years ago are thought to have been held in a bid to stop Cosa Nostra’s bloody campaign that claimed the lives of policemen, politicians, members of the public and two prominent anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Mobsters were furious about harsh new solitary confinement terms in prison and the success of “maxi-trials” introduced by prosecutor Falcone.

Messages of support for Mr Di Matteo and his colleagues in Palermo arrived from Rosy Bindi, the president of the parliamentary anti-Mafia commission, and the Italian Minister of Justice, Andrea Orlando, who phoned the Palermo prosecutor’s office from New York to check on the magistrates’ security.

But Mr Teresi said that the group of Palermo magistrates investigating the state-Mafia negotiations felt “isolated” – even from other magistrates, some of whom questioned their probe into murky events that happened more than two decades ago.

Last month President Giorgio Napolitano, was questioned by the Palermo prosecutor’s office via video link with the Quirinale Palace in Rome.

The 89-year-old Italian head of state, who was parliamentary speaker at the time of the presumed negotiations with Cosa Nostra, said that “he had never known of any deals” aimed at halting Sicilian Mob bosses’ brief war on the state.

Corrado De Rosa, the author and Mafia trial expert witness, told The Independent: “There are powers who don’t want this topic investigated or discussed. And to stop this happening they rubbish the magistrates and even say they’re mad.

“It started with Antonio Ingroia and now it’s happening to Di Matteo and his group. This leaves them isolated, and in this way they’re more vulnerable.”

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