Sicilian mafiosi return to plotting murder, but use foreign hitmen to keep their hands clean

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The Independent Online

After years of keeping the lowest of profiles, the Sicilian Mafia is back in action. And to avoid prosecution gang bosses are hiring foreign hitmen.

A leak from the public prosecutor's office in Gela, southern Sicily, reveals that a well-known local mafioso plotted to have the city's mayor blown up by a gang of Lithuanians.

Rosario Crocetta, a Communist and Italy's first self- declared gay mayor, has waged a sustained campaign against the Mafia. He has insisted that carabinieri sit in on meetings where the allocation of public works contracts, a major source of Mafia revenue, is discussed. And he has frequently and frankly condemned the Mob, a habit that was clearly becoming a serious irritation. In the transcript of the leaked wiretap, a gangster called Rocco di Giacomo explains to the Lithuanian, Così Minijus Marijus Denisenko: "This queer mayor is always saying that Gela is a Mafia town, that only he is clean.

"They've given him an escort of two police cars, his house is guarded and he has put security lights around it ... But he still has to get home..."

The gangsters apparently planned to blow up Mr Crocetta's car during the festival of the Immaculate Virgin, on 8 December last year.

Denisenko was enthusiastic. "I've got someone who can kill, I've got a team," he said on the tape. "We'll do it in the Corleone style" - naming the notorious Mafia family responsible for blowing up the Mafia investigators Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino 12 years ago, provoking an unprecedented crackdown on the Mob.

It was not explained why the plan to kill Mr Crocetta did not go through. The Lithuanian was subsequently deported.

An expert on the Mafia in Palermo said that after years of refraining from murder under Bernardo Provenzano, the boss who has been on the run for 40 years, there are signs that the Mafia is going back to its violent ways. "Using foreign hitmen is a sign of their increasing internationalisation," he said. "It's a way of keeping their hands clean."