Statements by two Mafia pentiti or supergrasses contain the most alarming and most graphic accusations so far against former prime minister Giulio Andreotti. They add to a thick file of testimony collected by Palermo magistrates.
The statements, given earlier this month in the United States where both men live under protection, were made public this week. They had been delivered to the Italian Senate to support the Palermo magistrates' request for authorisation to proceed against Mr Andreotti on suspicion of association with the Mafia. In the following extracts from the statements, Francesco Marino Mannoia, one of the pentiti, sets the scene:
'Stefano Bontade (the top Mafia boss at the time) like Salvatore Riina (the current boss of bosses, now in jail) and Giuseppe Calo (another top boss) was one of the most intelligent men in Cosa Nostra. He knew that the power of Cosa Nostra would remain limited if at least some members of the organisation did not establish relations of friendship with external powers.
'It was precisely for this reason that Bontade, against the prevailing opinion in Cosa Nostra, decided to join a masonic lodge, well knowing that in such a way he would be able to have important contacts which would increase his power and his personal prestige.'
Salvatore Lima, an Italian MP and an MEP, leader of the Christian Democrat party in Sicily and Mr Andre otti's political viceroy in Sicily, assassinated last year, 'was a man of honour of the ancient family of Matteo Citarda of viale Lazio,' he said, revealing that, contrary to the general assumption, Lima had taken the formal oath and was a true member of the Mafia. This fact, Mannoia said, 'was always kept 'reserved' ', that is, accessible to only a very few members of the organisation.
It was through Lima that the Mafia complained to Mr Andreotti about the behaviour of Piersanti Mattarella, the Christian Democrat president of the Sicilian region who, although the son of a mafioso politician himself, had decided to combat the Mafia and clean up his own party.
'Andreotti,' he went on, 'came down to Palermo and met Stefano Bontade, the Salvo cousins (Antonino and Ignazio, both leading Mafia men and political go-betweens, now dead, the latter assassinated), Lima, Nicoletti (another Christian Democrat politician) Gaetano Fiore (mafioso) and others.
'The meeting took place in a hunting reservation somewhere in Sicily but I don't remember where . . . I learned of this meeting from Bontade . . . He told me only that they complained to Andreotti of the behaviour of Matterella and added 'we will see'. A few months later the murder of Mattarella was decided upon.
'. . . A few months after Mattarella's murder I went with Stefano Bontade and Salvatore Federico to a small villa owned (at least as I seem to remember) by an Inzerillo, uncle of Salvatore (Mafia boss, later assassinated).' Several prominent Mafia bosses were there. 'About an hour after my arrival . . . a bullet- proof Alfa Romeo, dark in colour with darkened windows, drove in. On board there were both Salvo cousins and Giulio Andreotti . . .
'From what I heard, Andreotti had come from Trapani where he had landed at the airport in a private plane rented by the Salvos, or at least on the Salvos' behalf . . . He arrived in the morning, it could have been about 10 or 11, I do not remember precisely. The meeting with him lasted at most three-quarters of an hour. I personally saw Andreotti during the said meeting in the villa. We were in the villa waiting precisely for him because Stefano Bontade had told us explicitly that he was coming.
'When we heard the horn of a car sound we rushed to open the gate. The car drove in and the gate was closed immediately after it . . . He, Andreotti, got out, scrutinising his surroundings, and immediately went into the villa as Stefano Bontade and the others were inviting him to. Then I saw Andreotti again when, at the end of the meeting, he left the villa and got into the car again. If I recall correctly he was dressed in a dark colour. He did not wear a coat or raincoat, the weather was warm. I only saw the suit . . . I did not take part in the talks since I remained outside in the garden . . . but I clearly heard shouts coming from inside. 'Driving back from the villa, Stefano Bontade said 'Andreotti had come to have clarifications about the murder of Mattarella.' Bontade told him (Andreotti) 'we are in command in Sicily and if you do not want to wipe out the Christian Democrat party completely you have to do as we say. If not we will take away not only your votes in Sicily but also in Reggio Calabria and all southern Italy. You can only count on the votes in the north' . . . Bontade said he warned Andreotti 'off the idea of adopting measures or special laws because otherwise other serious things will happen'.'
The other pentito, Tommaso Buscetta, said 'the political patron to whom Salvatore Lima turned on matters of interest to Cosa Nostra which had to have a solution in Rome was Giulio Andreotti . . . Lima was not the only middleman between the most important members of Cosa Nostra and Andreotti . . .
'Gaetano Badalamenti, a top Mafia boss now in jail in the US, told me he personally met Giulio Andreotti in Rome in connection with the latter's intervention in a Supreme Court case against Filippo Rimi, Badalamenti's brother-in-law. Rimi had been condemned to life imprisonment but as it turned out the Supreme Court ruling was favourable to him. Badalamenti, Rimi and one of the Salvos . . . went to Andreotti's office and met him there. Badalamenti told me Andreotti personally congratulated him saying that there 'should be people like him in every street in every town in Italy'.'
Buscetta had told the parliamentary anti-Mafia commission that a political 'entity' had asked the Mafia to kill General Alberto dalla Chiesa, the anti-Mafia prefect of Palermo, but declined to give any name. 'The entity of whom I spoke before the anti-Mafia commission is Giulio Andreotti,' Buscetta said in his statement.
He said Badalamenti and Bontade told him the murder of Mino Pecorel li, a Rome journalist, was the work of the Mafia. It 'was a political crime required by the Salvo cousins inasmuch as it had been asked of them by Andreotti . . . From what Badala menti told me it seems that Pecorelli was investigating 'political matters' linked to the Moro (the former prime minister) kidnapping . . . Andreotti was concerned that these secrets could leak out . . . (they were) secrets which Gen dalla Chiesa also knew.'