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Sicily’s Mafia in plot to murder Justice Minister, court told

Hit would have been one of Cosa Nostra’s most audacious in decades
  • @michael2day

The Sicilian Mafia laid plans to assassinate Italy’s Justice Minister in 2010, a court has been told. Had it succeeded, the hit would have been one of the Cosa Nostra crime organisation’s most audacious in decades.

Twenty-two years after Cosa Nostra gangsters killed two leading anti-Mafia judges in bomb blasts that convulsed Italy and led to a fierce backlash against the crime syndicate, its bosses were once again planning to reach such heights of notoriety, according to a leading mob informant giving evidence in a separate case this week.

Their aim was to launch a bombing campaign against Silvio Berlusconi’s then Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano, who has since held the post of Deputy Prime Minister and is tipped for higher office.

Responding to prosecutor’s questions, a Mafia informant, Luigi Rizza, told the court in Catanzaro, Calabria, that Cosa Nostra bosses from various clans held a meeting in 2009 at which they hatched a plan to kill Mr Alfano and several Sicilian magistrates.

Mr Alfano, now the Interior Minister in Matteo Renzi’s coalition government, earned Cosa Nostra’s wrath by seeking to toughen conditions for prisoners held under the “41-bis” law, designed to keep senior underworld bosses in solitary confinement.

Rizza said Matteo Messina Denaro, the most senior Cosa Nostra figure to evade capture and Italy’s most-wanted criminal, was at the meeting, in which it was decided to reach out to jailed Mafia figures to consult on the plan. However, during this consultation process, bombs designed to intimidate Salvatore Di Landro, the chief prosecutor of the Reggio Calabria region, exploded outside his offices and his home. The territory belonged to ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian crime organisation.

Rizza said that the authorities’ fierce reaction to these bombings, which saw security forces pour into Calabria, deterred Cosa Nostra mobsters in Sicily from carrying out the plan to kill Mr Alfano and magistrates.

It was the hated 41-bis measures and the famous “maxi-trial” process that saw hundreds of its mobsters caged in a single swoop, that prompted Cosa Nostra’s murderous campaign in 1992 and 1993. Police, politicians, the public and the anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were all killed within months of each other.

The resulting backlash and a crackdown by police saw Cosa Nostra lose ground to rival crime syndicates in Calabria and Naples in the decades that followed. Mafia experts say the Sicilian Mafia regrouped by keeping a lower profile and by moving into finance and the “grey economy”.

In the past six months, however, signs of old-school Cosa Nostra behaviour have emerged, with death threats made against prosecutors in Sicily’s capital, Palermo, including Nino di Matteo. In December, sources said “the explosives are ready”, suggesting a bomb attack against Mr Di Matteo was imminent, and his security was stepped up.