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The Umpteenth Anti-Mafia Operation in Sicily, a Woman, and New York “Cousins”

22 people arrested, thought to be close to, if not part of, Cosa Nostra: there are things that we already know, things that we should reflect on, and trouble us a bit

(Image Pixabay/SergeyGorbachev)

Sicily is an island made up of islands, of stand-alone territories, a few large cities, and in the middle, a rugged and secret territory which still hides fugitives…The best definition of Mafia is this: violence through relationships. Because this is Cosa Nostra, a system of relationships that renders a modest criminal body a formidable machine with an incredible and unsuspecting capital of relationships. All this, thanks to those who outside of the Mafia, strengthen it. 

There is this sense of being dragged by the feet towards quicksand when you hear the car sirens at dawn, as law enforcement put into motion the raids against the latest Mafia bosses. Because we really are living in uncertain times: we have found a cure and a vaccine for a virus discovered only a year ago, but there is the virus of the Mafia that still today, after 150 years, we are unable to completely eradicate, despite the extremely advanced tools of investigation, super- specialized legislation, and some very sharp minds at the helm of prosecutors’ offices and investigations.

All of the fugitives (except for one) have been apprehended and have died behind bars, businesses and fortunes have been seized, we place wiretaps everywhere. And so why does it still happen today that something gets by us? Why do we have to hear about criminals who kneel before the Mafia boss because they robbed the wrong café (one of the many episodes that have emerged from this investigation), of extortion on the price of grapes, of meetings to decide on territories and borders?

Because Sicily is big, and it is not something obvious. Sicily is an island made up of islands, of stand-alone territories, a few large cities, and in the middle, a rugged and secret territory which still hides fugitives and secrets. It is an island made up of islands, as stated, therefore Palermo is not Trapani and it’s not Canicattì. So it’s pointless to drive out the head of Cosa Nostra; someone always pops up somewhere else, trying to create a clan, thinking as Mafia heads and bosses, seeking some new business or rediscovering old ones.

And then, there’s this thing that renders the Mafia invincible today. In the end, after having written, thought and discussed so much about the Mafia, I’ve concluded that the best definition of Mafia is this: violence through relationships. Because this is Cosa Nostra, a system of relationships that renders a modest criminal body (let’s not forget that for a period of time, the heads of the criminal organization were the illiterate members of the Corleonesi Mafia clan…) a formidable machine with an incredible and unsuspecting capital of relationships. All this, thanks to those who, outside of the Mafia, strengthen it.

Just as is the case of the lawyer Angela Porcello, the true protagonist of this investigation. Fifty years old, Porcello, according to the prosecution’s charging papers, used her law practice as a cover to organize the business affairs of the Mafia crime family with her companion, Giancarlo Buggea’s summit meetings (the Mafia businessman who also had his properties and assets confiscated) held at her firm, so that the planted wiretaps could not intercept anything. A firm that became the clan’s headquarters, thanks to a professional that, once again, put herself at the service of organized crime. “Having abandoned her role as a lawyer”, wrote prosecutors, “during the course of a meeting Porcello acted as an equal to the Mafia members present, fully interpreting the role of a true participant and organizer of the Mafia association.”

A law firm that — for the irony of all things Sicilian — was located in Canicattì, right in via Rosario Livatino. And the person responsible for ordering the hit on the magistrate Antonio Gallea, was among those arrested in this operation, because he was trying to reorganize the clan after having been granted semi-freedom from his jail sentence. This is what makes the Mafia invincible, figures like Porcello. In other words, professionals that are accomplices of the Mafia: the architects that sign off on building projects, the accountants that make illicit earnings disappear, all those that either for convenience or out of cowardice, turn the other way. Not to mention the most painful aspect – those in law enforcement  that “directed” the course of the investigations. In this investigation even an inspector was arrested, Filippo Pitruzzella, as well as an assistant chief of police, Giuseppe D’Andrea. The magistrates write of Pitruzzella, “Just like a cancer within the body of the nation, the infiltration of the Mafia achieved thanks to the conduct of Inspector Pitruzzella, generates metastases that are widespread and devastating, thwarting on-going investigations, inhibiting the creation of new ones.”

And some cousins from America also feature in this investigation, a pattern that we’ve seen before. More and more often, when the Sicilian Mafia is in trouble it calls on the Mafia in New York, as if it wanted to revive the splendor of the Pizza Connection. And so in that manner, the emissaries of the Gambino family from America reach Favara, in the heart of Agrigento, to discuss business and money laundering. The sector in which to invest is that of “credit cards with unlimited coverage”. What this means, not even they really know. But the discussion is pleasing, it makes sense. And it’s always Buggea that controls the situation regarding this operation, which seems to be more of a brag than a practical project, discussing a meeting also with the Russians, of “good people” that are in New York. He brags, while wiretapped, of his links to the Mafia overseas. But then, yet again, nothing comes of it.

Matteo Messina Denaro

A picture of the fugitive Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, released by Italian State Police

It is a chatty and miserable Mafia, the one that we see: boastful, but in reality  dwindling down.  And one that lives with the legend of Matteo Messina Denaro: the last, elusive member of Cosa Nostra, and this operation’s intruder. There should have been 23 arrests. The Carabinieri (military police) stopped at 22 because there has been no trace of Messina Denaro since 1993. He who is not present, but instead is present; he who does not speak, but yet is spoken of by many. Even those clans from Agrigento whose Mafia bosses have been picked up and who amongst themselves boast about having a privileged channel with the boss, recognize in him a boss. It was always Buggea that would push the boss Antonino Chiazza to strip authority from the Mafia head of Canicattì, Calogero Di Caro. A small coup, in short. And this was discussed at Porcello’s firm. Buggea makes it clear to Chiazza that he can reach Messina Denaro. There’s a channel. Chiazza tells him, “It seems that you have great charisma.” Or great chutzpah. Because this is what it’s come down to in the game of mirrors that is the war against the Mafia. Of stories to tell, tones to assume, American cousins to contact, ghosts to  evoke. To keep us still in the swamp.

Translation by Emmelina De Feo

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