Mysteries unravel as mafiosi spill secrets

Italy's new government has gangsters on the run

Rome - It is confession time in Italy. The latest mafioso to turn state's evidence, Calogero Ganci, has owned up to more than 100 violent crimes and shed valuable new light on a series of high-profile killings, from General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa in 1982 to Judge Giovanni Falcone a decade later.

Meanwhile, a former Red Brigade terrorist called Germano Maccari has come clean after three years of agonising soul-searching and admitted that he was the hitherto shady "fourth man" in the kidnapping and murder of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978. For the first time, he talked about the intricate planning that went into building the various hide-outs where Moro was hidden during his 55 days in captivity, and gave a detailed description of the shooting which finished him off.

There are indications, too, that another great Italian mystery is edging closer towards elucidation. Last week a London-based mafioso called Francesco Di Carlo was extradited from Britain to Italy to give evidence about the death of Roberto Calvi, the corrupt banker found hanging beneath Blackfriars bridge in London in 1981. The Italian courts have consistently recorded a verdict of suicide but, according to judicial sources, Di Carlo may now be about to confess to Calvi's murder.

It may be that the timing of these admissions is fortuitous but, in a country as contorted and conspiracy-ridden as Italy, that seems unlikely. What links them, if nothing else, is the arrival of a new centre-left government - a government made up of parties and interest groups that have been working for years from the opposition benches to combat the Mafia and clear up the mysteries that have plagued the health of Italy's democracy for the past quarter of a century.

The prospect of a more authoritative state, guided by a government set to last rather longer than the miserable postwar average of 10 months, will almost certainly have emboldened a man such as Ganci, whose confessions have alienated him completely from his family and friends and have left him entirely at the mercy of the state's witness protection programme.

It has undoubtedly emboldened the magistrates who have been working in virtual isolation to tease out the well-protected secrets behind such mysteries as the shooting down of a civilian airliner north of Sicily in 1980, or the series of unresolved bombings that began in the Piazza Fontana in Milan as early as 1968.

"A healthy democracy should not have dark spots muddying its past. A strong government will certainly make it easier to shed light on these events," commented Marco Minniti, national co-ordinator for the main left-wing party in power, the PDS.

Since Romano Prodi's government entered office a month ago, the most palpable advance has been in the fight against the Mafia. Apart from Ganci's confessions, police have arrested one of Cosa Nostra's most ruthless killers, Giovanni Brusca, as well as Giovanni Riina, son of the Sicilian Mafia's super-boss turned super-convict, Toto Riina. The feeling is that the Corleonesi clan, which ran Cosa Nostra's anti-state terror in the Eighties and Nineties, is definitively in retreat.

In truth, the retreat began in 1992 in the wake of the Falcone killing, which so shocked the nation that it mobilised a massive police and judicial operation to track down the culprits. But the anti-Mafia push suffered a damaging period of thumb-twiddling once Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government came to power in 1994. One of Mr Berlusconi's closest associates, Marcello Dell'Utri, is now under investigation for collusion with the Mafia, as is his party's chief representative in Palermo, Francesco Musotto.

In the political vacuum which preceded April's general election, the anti-Mafia effort virtually ground to a halt. The trial of Giulio Andreotti, Italy's most prominent post-war politician, accused of Mafia patronage and murder, hit a brick wall back in January and did not resume until two weeks ago. Now, nearly nine months after Mr Andreotti first appeared in court, the case is at last proceeding at a reasonable pace.

And what of the Mafia's future? Certainly, its "military wing", as prosecutors call the likes of Toto Riina, is breaking up at a spectacular rate. But it would be wrong to assume that the whole organisation is under threat. Illegal trade in drugs and arms is by all accounts booming, especially in Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia, and the closed atmosphere of protection rackets and omerta that has characterised southern Italy for so long shows no sign of lifting.

"It wouldn't be the first time that the Mafia had hidden itself in its own territory," said the chief prosecutor of Palermo, Gian Carlo Caselli, this week. "Going underground might put an end to the terrorist wave and the series of illustrious corpses, but only to lower the guard of the state authorities."

In other words, the real war against the Mafia, the war for the hearts and minds of Sicilian society as a whole, is far from being resolved.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

Recruitment Genius: Fundraising Manager / Income Generation Coach

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Account Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy, friendly and creative marketing ag...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - London - £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Wes...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project