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The State-Mafia Negotiation: The Italian Republic, Prosecuted and Found Guilty

An interview with journalist Saverio Lodato, co-author with Magistrate Nino Di Matteo of “Il Patto Sporco”, which accuses the Italian press of silence

Palermo, July 19th 1992: Via d'Amelio moments after the explosion that took Paolo Borsellino's life.

“Il Patto Sporco” is the story of one of the most important events in Italian history and makes us reflect on the established judicial truth. At its center a young trainee of Falcone and Borsellino, today the Anti-mafia Magistrate Nino Di Matteo. The book’s co-author Saverio Lodato in this interview explains what happened. “No other criminal phenomenon in the world has lasted for 150 years. In a century and a half regimes and ideologies have fallen; communism and fascism have fallen. We have witnessed epochal changes in every field. But the mafia still exists”.

The cover of Nino di Matteo and Saverio Lodato’s Book.

This book was born out of the most essential purpose of journalism: the need to know the truth. In a democracy, a healthy press reports to a people so that it may make informed decisions about its welfare and its future; so that it may know its history and therefore, itself.

Il Patto Sporco: Il Processo Stato-Mafia nel racconto di un suo protagonist, di Nino Di Matteo e Saverio Lodato (Chiarelettere 2018) The Dirty Pact: The State-Mafia Trial as told by one of its protagonists, by Nino Di Matteo and Saverio Lodato (Chiarelettere 2018) is a vade mecum that guides the reader in concise language through the complex trial of that unspeakably obscene pact between certain members of the Italian State and the principal architects of Cosa nostra. They explain in simple terms one of the most important events in Italy’s 150-year history: the trial known as the State-Mafia Negotiation, a legal proceeding that took over five years to reach a judgement.

 

There would have been no need to write such a book if it wasn’t for the obstruction, false spin, and denials of Italy’s largest media groups before, during, and after the trial. The guilty verdict handed down in the first grade of justice in April was greeted with ambivalence and near-total silence by the press.

In the book’s Q&A format, the trial’s lead magistrate for the prosecution, Antonino Di Matteo, and veteran journalist, Saverio Lodato, trace key aspects of what happened when deviant parts of the Italian State (politicians, State police, and lawmakers) conducted a secret negotiation with the mafia that first required the death of Anti-mafia Magistrate Paolo Borsellino and then assured the lessening of official anti-mafia efforts in exchange for a halt to the terroristic assaults by organized crime that rocked Italy in the early 1990’s. The Negotiation covered a period from the murder of Salvo Lima and the massacres at Capaci and in via D’Amelio to the mafia bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1992-1993.

Saverio Lodato has written important books with major figures in Italian law, crime and culture. His works with Antonino Caponnetto, Giovanni Brusca, Tommaso Buscetta, Pietro Grasso, Andrea Camilleri, Marco Travaglio and Roberto Scarpinato are required reading for anyone who considers himself well-informed. Magistrate Nino Di Matteo is one of the most at-risk, most protected people in Italy today. Dr. Di Matteo and his family have lived under police escort for 25 years. The terrible price this protection has cost him in the search for this judicial truth is unimaginable. The price that Italians and the world would pay in not knowing that truth would have cost even more.

Saverio Lodato

Why did you write Il Patto Sporco?

Saverio Lodato: Because in the vast majority of cases, Italian newspapers treated this trial with deafening silence. If Italians had known about it, if they had been informed during its progress of the arguments by both the prosecution and the defense, and then of the sentence itself in the Assize court, there would have been no reason for us to write this book.

Why the deafening silence?

SL: Because it’s one thing to fight mafiosi with their sawed-off shotguns and their Kalashnikovs. It’s one thing to arrest mafiosi who perpetrated massacres and caused over a thousand deaths. But it’s another thing entirely to strike at officials in the higher levels of government who have colluded with Cosa nostra. This phenomenon has endured in Italy since before the Unification in 1860. No other criminal phenomenon in the world has lasted so long. Regimes and ideologies have fallen. Communism and fascism have fallen. We have witnessed epochal changes in every field. The borders of almost every State have changed. But the mafia still exists.

Why?

SL: The mafia was able to survive for decades and decades because those that were in government made use of the mafia while denying its existence.

Where are we today in the fight against the mafia?

SL: At the end of the 1970’s, early 1980’s, a group of courageous justices at the Office of Instruction [the investigative branch of the Prosecution Office of Palermo] who had given birth to the anti-mafia pool, were finally supported by local and state police, politicians and priests. They worked in harmony, having decided that the mafia had to be fought. They began to say: the mafia exists. It is the duty of the magistrature to attack it. We must begin to prosecute mafiosi with trials in which we finally have proof and not just circumstantial evidence. This work was possible because of the first state’s witnesses, the first state collaborators. Tommaso Buscetta turned State’s Witness with Giovanni Falcone exactly when Falcone was carrying out his early investigations. Without the contribution of these first state’s witnesses, Falcone’s investigations would not have gotten very far. But the mafiosi, at the Maxi-Trial’s conclusion, were condemned to the heaviest of convictions which were then definitively confirmed later in Cassation. For the first time, a blow was made against the military arm of the mafia with the conviction of more than 500 people.

However, even then Falcone and Borsellino knew full well that the mafia had relations with the institutions, with politicians, with the banks and with the Italian State. But in that phase, not yet having solid proof, they could not attack these collusions.  That was a first great season, with Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

A second season lasting another seven years was the trial of seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. This trial did not end with the “acquittal” of the most famous Italian politician in the world, as all the major Italian newspapers falsely reported at the time. It ended with a verdict in Cassation establishing that Andreotti had met on two occasions with mafia bosses and discussed their assassination of Piersanti Mattarella, [Demo-Christian politician, President of the Sicilian Region, older brother of the current President of the Republic of Italy] and other crimes which we all know now. In that trial Andreotti’s actions were declared beyond the statute of limitations. Andreotti was ordered to pay the legal expenses of the trial; a clear demonstration that he was never acquitted indeed! These are historical facts. Then there is a third stage that deals with our time now.

Nino di Matteo during one of the hearings. (Image from YouTube)

What does this new trial, the State-Mafia Negotiation, mean?

SL: The Andreotti trial was about an exchange between mafiosi and politicians. That trial was still a trial directed at mafiosi who had relations in politics. The Negotiation Trial is something different. For the first time, politicians, state police and mafiosi find themselves together in the dock. This is what is new. This is something that leaves many quite frightened.

This also explains the great silence of most Italian mass media. While one could say regarding Toto Riina, throw away the key because he was the architect of the massacres, in a case involving institutional representatives of the State, for many people this was something you could not say, something you could not do. Because the price to pay would be too high. Therefore, during these last five years the media have tried to suffocate this trial in the hope – but never the certainty – that those representatives of the State would all be acquitted. Instead, they were all convicted.

Hence the book…

SL: Dr. Di Matteo and I wrote Il Patto Sporco because we wanted the honest Italian citizen, with nothing to hide, with nothing to fear, to get a real idea of what this trial was about, if he so desired. We wanted to leave a written account for posterity. An Italian citizen can become informed and, if he thinks it right, can side with the Anti-mafia. It seemed an act of duty to leave an objective document. And the proof of the big news groups’ bad faith or embarrassment is found in the fact that they are all silent. Now, with pages that call out the convicted by first and last name, they prefer to say nothing.

Il patto sporco

Author: Nino Di Matteo, Saverio Lodato

Publisher: Chiarelettere 2018

Available: IBS.it; Amazon.com

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