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Sigitas Ciapas 1-2

Story: “Agora” Ltd. president Sigitas Ciapas assassination

One of the longest disclosed crimes in Lithuania – Sigitas Chiapas businessman from Kaunas and his driver’s murder.

16 years ago using Soviet Union military beloved machine guns hired killers silenced when the country’s famous company “Agora” president Sigitas Ciapas and his driver. It is stated that he knew the darkest Kaunas mafia secrets.

Nearly two decades all things were clear: the 1996, 5 April – Great Friday morning – luxury deemed window BMW was attacked by two hired killers using automatic machine guns at the moment then S. Ciapas and his wife Jolanta Ciapienė was sitting inside the car, the driver was going to close the gates of the private home in Kaunas, Sargenai village.

S. Ciapas was collecting information about Kaunas organized crime groups?
About this famous case at the time was widely written in various publications and have even in mafia surveying books, but the real reason for what in the past well-known murdered millionaire S. Ciapas is still unknown.
Significant answer could not be hear even careful watching still pending large-scale Kaunas Daktarai gang crime case.

Todays, the bloodiest lithuanian mafia attack of the twentieth century on the businessman again remembered one of the former S. Chiapas colleague. He said that from 1984-1989 in F. Dzerzinskis KGB Higher School studied from Kaunas supposedly had compromised about those times Kaunas highest authorities of the criminal world and for that lost his life.

According to anonymous source, S. Ciapas least a couple of months to his death was able to pass the dossier prepared by reliable informants, which was discredited gathered information about at that time country prosperous Vilijampole bandits and their business.

However, this version has been refused to confirm of a high level law enforcement officials.

Inspiring talks on funeral

Located near Kaunas Karmėlava cemetery, farewell to the hired killers gunned rich Kaunas business-man and his driver came colorful crowd.

Especially from Moscow for the funeral arrived about ten men – former Chekist – KGB successor the FSB (Russian security service) veterans, a group the main Russian political activist Vladimir Putin’s colleagues.

This group in now days has a huge impact on the Russian presidential administration, the country’s power structures, special services, and financial and economic oligarchy circles.

Previously they have served with S. Chiapas in Kaunas, Panemunė deployed 7th army division, they have been connected with old and close ties, friendship.

As the author of these lines told the funeral procession carefully watched one man, one of the former „Kaunas“ soldiers, stood to S. Chiapas grave and loudly uttered the memorable phrase: “Now the Lithuanian land – S. Ciapas killer underfoot … ”

S. Ciapas friends from Moscow shown interest in this case immediately after the murder of a businessman. In those days one of friends said that crime has gone beyond all limits, and if the police are powerless to find killers, they find them themselves.

Widow of S. Ciapas accuses Henrikas Daktaras

Interesting enough that now, after 16 years of the shootings, which killed two people, it became clear that the killers actually wasn‘t found and so they avoid trial.

Although analysing researchers collected data of Kaunas „Daktarai“ was clear that bosses of this organized crime group called hired killers from Belarus. But H. Daktaras also will avoid the punishment for this crime, as a decade ago that hired killers died in a mysterious road accident in Poland before the killing. Shooters who killed S. Chapas still not found.

During this brutal attack only because of a miracle survived his wife, J. Ciapiene talking about this accident hardly able to stop her tears.

After buring her husband and father of three children in April 1996, woman in January of this year in court of Klaipeda city for the first time after a long break spoke up about the tragic event: “My deep belief, the husband murder was ordered by H. Daktaras, and everything was organized by Egidijus Abarius (nickname – Goga) he for many years was considered a gang cashier”

The fateful visit

Only a few hours after lost of S. Ciapas his wife J. Ciapiene interviewed by law enforcement officers of Kaunas revealed: “At the end of 1995, H. Daktaras with few men visited us. One of them explained me that for my husband nothing happens only in thanks for H. Daktaras. That man has a lot of enemies that all are very keen to do something, but nothing happens since S. Ciapas keeps friendship with H. Daktaras who sympathize with our family …“

“They said that thay can not find a common language with my husband, that they were with him, talked with him for several hours. He talked to the stars, so they said that they came here the last time …”

He explained that I would have to speak with my husband, because not a big deal to put a bag on my husband‘s head without keeping any squeaks. They said, we warn you that we came here no more.

They insisted that I call the Sigitas to interact with them, that he is a bad man – he contacting with their enemies, not them, who once “suspended” them. This is what the H. Daktaras said, that man communicates with Sadeckas (Alvydas Sadeckas, a former high-crime police employee). Which arrested H. Daktaras once. What does he say, deos he trying to become a politcian? And again several threatening occasions that they came here last time. ”

Cruising with „selected“ audiences

What is the commercial activity the the former KGB school student S. Ciapas was engaged in last years of life, even law enforcement officials who watced him said they do not know. Today, the former gang members of H. Daktaras in court speaking that S. Ciapas curated contraband spirits business, in which actively participated Kaunas criminal “stars”.

Well known that in early nineties alcohol smuggling was a niche of risky business because competitors have become all kind of businessman, the bandits. Such conflicts usually ended with death of one side.

However with high politics and actors of those times S. Chiapas name is associated more than with his business. That S. Ciapas could become a victim of alcohol-business competitors, don‘t believe he close known persons and law enforcement structures.

Once S. Chiapas had strong connection with controversy established company in Kaunas by local bandits named „Grand Queen“ owners. 1991 May 2, was the day company organized a 17-day cruise tour of the Mediterranean Sea.

The tour group, which accounted for most of the Grand Queen employees and their relatives, also were involved S. Chiapas with his wife, the company “Rara” director Vladas Laurinavičius, (nicknamed Lauryte) with his wife, “Innovative company Init, commercial director Gintaras Skobas – today accused of ordering the double murder. In their company also was center section manager of Lithuanian Savings Bank (LTB) Kaunas affiliate Eugenijus Sukys and his wife.

The travel cost total of 44.350,50 that time rubles (now about 1413 USD)

It is worth attention that the Lithuanian Savings Bank (LTB) units has been able to give credits only since 1991. Follow-up time of those events in Kaunas business, which has been closely connected with the criminal world bosses showed that E. Sukys inclusion in this group of travelers wasn‘t beed accidental, in the same year June 27th the company “Grand Queen“ has been provided as much as 2 million. rubles credit from Lithuanian Savings Bank (LTB) central division.

Facts: Shutting up by 44 shoots

In 1996. April 5. about 8 hours and 10 minutes. Kaunas Sargenai, S. Ciapas, J. Ciapiene and the driver Vincas Varnas, drove BMW 535 from own home yeard in Obelynė street and after stopping near 23th house of that street had suddenly drove a green car “Volkswagen Golf“ fitted with registration plates CKH884.

From researchers unknown persons poured shots from automatic AK-74 and AKMS to S. Ciapas – who sat on the front passenger seat, J. Ciapiene – seated in the back seat, and car driver V. Varnas who was standing near the car.

After Murderers shooting 55 shots S. Ciapas was killed by 44 gunshots. V. Varnas after wounds of shots did not regain consciousness and died in the hospital on the same day at 14 hours and 30 minutes.

J. Ciapiene at the shooting time managed to fall on the car floor, her light body wounds briefly disrupted health.

Written by: Dailius Dargis

Soldiers stand in formation as a pile of marijuana burns in Tijuana. The Government's commitment to the war on drugs is undermined by corruption. Photo / AP

Anabel Hernandez: Free speech a life-or-death struggle

Anabel Hernandez was awarded a world press freedom prize for her book The Drug Lords, which exposes links between organised crime and Mexican officials.

On December 1, 2010 (when The Drug Lords was published) a price was put on my head and on that day I decided to fight for my life. Since then I have been on the verge of losing the things that I love the most. My family was attacked, my sisters have been harassed in their homes by armed thugs, my information sources now feature on the list of missing persons, have been killed or unjustly imprisoned. Every day I live with this weight in my heart, never knowing when my time will be up.

The world looks to a burned-out Mexico but never quite understands what goes on here and consequently does not realise that this could happen anywhere on earth.

The Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Mario Vargas Llosa once said that there existed in Mexico a “perfect dictatorship”. In Mexico today there is a “perfect criminal dictatorship”. The most repressive regime of all time is that of the power of organised crime that has blended with Mexico’s political and economic power thanks to a corrupt and unpunished national system. This combination of a drowsy society divided by indifference or terror makes for the perfect milieu for this perverse regime to maintain itself and grow.

To think this, say this or write this is more dangerous in Mexico than being a drug-trafficker or working for them.

This is the power that has murdered thousands of innocent children, youths, women and men. This is the power that has seized areas of Mexican territory and subjected the population to a regime of terror, extortion, kidnapping and impunity. This is the power that obstructs freedom of expression, the power that has executed 82 journalists over the course of a decade, has caused more than 16 to disappear and threatened hundreds, such as myself.

This is the power that ensures that crimes against journalists go unpunished. So as to wash their hands before public opinion and the international community, the Government of Mexico, which is currently considered the most dangerous place on earth to work as a journalist, claims to have created a prosecution office to protect journalists and resolve cases of their murder. This office has done nothing but conceal the consent of federal and local government in the murder of journalists.

The crisis within Mexico with regard to freedom of expression has been devastating. The media are afraid and preserve their economic interests with the Government, and barely fight back when their journalists are killed, are threatened or disappear. There is inaction in part due to a lack of solidarity in the union and among the dynamic media egotists, but also because the Government has criminalised murdered journalists in general, as well as anyone who tries to defend them.

Family members have no way out; they collect pieces of tortured and dismembered journalists who have been dumped in rubbish sacks. They must be quiet and keep their heads down when the infamous Government, with no evidence whatsoever, claims that the journalist was involved in trafficking.

A year and nine months ago, I understood that it was not enough to survive this barbarity. To feel the breeze blowing on my face, to breathe clean air and see the smiles of my beloved children is not enough.

A life in silence is not life anywhere on earth. To live in silence with regard to how corruption, crime and impunity continue to empower themselves in my country is also to die.

I continue to denounce the decay of Mexico and the collusion of politicians, public servants and high-level businessmen with Mexican drug cartels. Today Mexican society is in need of brave and honest journalists who are ready to fight and I believe that the international community and world media share this responsibility to deeply consider the reality of the situation in Mexico and assist us in achieving our goals. Without freedom of expression, there is no possibility of justice or democracy.

I will fight until my last breath, even if it is a small example, so that as journalists we are not brought to our knees before the drug state. I don’t know how many days, weeks, months or years I have left. I know that I am on the blacklist of very powerful men who will go unpunished with their pockets full of money from drug bribes and a guilty conscience for their unmentionable acts.

I know that they are awaiting their moment to carry out their threats at little political cost. I know that I have nothing but the truth, my voice and my work as a journalist to defend myself with.

I want to live, but to live in silence is just another way to die.



The Zetas have been blamed for an arson attack on a casino that left 52 dead

Mexico’s Zetas drug gang split raises bloodshed fears

It was an extraordinary tale of escape. Last month, a man managed to survive a massacre in Mexico by playing dead.

He hid under the bodies of 14 other people shot and dumped in a minivan which the attackers then drove towards the city of San Luis Potosi. He made his escape when the vehicle full of corpses stopped for petrol.

But it soon became clear the survivor was no random victim. Rather, he was a member of the same organisation that had attacked him, the feared and violent Los Zetas criminal network.

It confirmed a troubling rumour in Mexico: that Los Zetas have split into two and the rival factions are now fighting each other.

Los Zetas started life in the late 1990s as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. Tasked with protecting the cartel’s drug-trafficking empire, the Zetas were primarily comprised of defectors from an elite unit of the Mexican army called El Gafe.

By 2005, they had broken away from their paymasters and started to run criminal enterprises themselves.

Now, it seems the group has split again, this time internally.

One faction is led by one of the founders of Los Zetas, a former Gafe officer called Heriberto Lazcano, alias “El Lazca” or “Z-3″.

The other is led by Miguel Angel Trevino, known as “Z-40″, a former member of the Gulf Cartel who is thought to be responsible for some of the most heinous and bloodthirsty crimes committed by the Zetas.

Mexico’s Attorney General Marisela Morales recently confirmed that reports from government intelligence sources indicated that the Zetas were now at war with themselves.

Such groups inevitably begin to “break up and start to divide”, she said, calling the split “an important factor in the increase in violence” in northern states such as San Luis Potosi, Coahuila and Zacatecas.

Some local crime reporters have pointed to recent “narco-mantas” – banners put up in public places by drug gangs – accusing Heriberto Lazcano of betrayal as further proof of the split.

But despite the circumstantial nature of such evidence, most experts on the organisation agree that the rupture is real.

“I’m convinced that it’s true,” says George Grayson, co-author of All the Executioner’s Men, a book about Los Zetas.

“Lazca and Z-40 are actually quite different. They seldom met, maybe just once a month. They communicated by cellphones which they then threw away after each conversation.”

The two men inhabit different parts of the country, says Dr Grayson, and beyond their criminal partnership have little in common.

“Their common interests were fast cars, fast horses, fast women, fancy guns and hunting exotic beasts on a hunting reserve in Coahuila.”

Of the two, Miguel Angel Trevino has the more fearsome reputation.

“Not that El Lazca is a saint, but Z-40 seems to get his basic enjoyment by committing the most incredibly sadistic acts,” says Dr Grayson.

It was Z-40, for example, who is alleged to have been responsible for one of the most gruesome episodes in Mexico’s drug war, when 72 people were tortured, raped and murdered on a ranch in San Fernando in Tamaulipas.

Under pressure

It is hard to know exactly why the split has happened now.

“(Los Zetas are) built from the ground up with very low barriers of entry into the money-making part of the business,” says Steven Dudley, co-founder of Insight Crime, a web-based consultancy on organised crime in the Americas.

The Zetas have been blamed for an arson attack on a casino that left 52 dead
Any organisation set up this way will eventually “tear itself apart at the seams”, he says.

“The Zetas are also under an extreme amount of pressure from law enforcement on both sides of the border, and they have been singled out by their rivals, who have created alliances to attack them.”

For Dr Grayson, the split between Lazcano and Trevino is certainly not about ideology. The final trigger might have been something as trivial as an argument over a racehorse or a woman, he suggests.

Earlier this year, a profitable horse-breeding ranch in Oklahoma run by Z-40’s younger brother, Jose Trevino, was shut down by the US authorities and he was arrested. This episode has been posited as a possible source of friction between the two men.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Zeta-on-Zeta violence fills people in some Mexican states with dread.

“If you have a car dealership in San Luis Potosi, and a Zeta commander comes in and asks for the weekly quota (bribe). Then another comes in and demands the same thing. Who do you pay? It must be a nightmare,” says Mr Dudley.

The Zetas already operate like a franchise and are involved in more than 20 different criminal activities, from extortion to human trafficking. Low-level criminal gangs often seek to profit from their name and the fear it strikes into the general population.

“The Zetas as a brand-name may survive. But the changes within that organisation will be tremendous,” Mr Dudley predicts.

The worry is that a lot more blood will be spilled along the way.

Mafia Gun State

The Rise of the Mafia State

There have always been countries whose leaders have behaved criminally. Today is no different and in most of the world’s nations, graft, dishonesty in the use of public funds and the “sale” of government decisions to the highest private bidder are common. Corruption is the “norm” and we have become inured to it.

Unfortunately, the assumptions that there is nothing new regarding crime and corruption and that these plagues are an inevitable part of the human experience are clouding an important change: the ascent of the mafia state, an old player that has gained renewed potency.

These are not just countries rife with corruption or where organized crime controls important swaths of the economy or even entire regions. Rather, these are countries where the state controls and uses large and powerful criminal networks to defend and advance the national interest and — as importantly — the personal interests of the governing elite, their family and friends. This is not new and pirates and mercenaries were commonly used by monarchs and rulers since time immemorial. Even democracies, like the United States, at times relied on criminals to achieve national security goals. Perhaps the best known example occurred in 1960, when the CIA hired the mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro. The execution of this mission was as inept as the decision itself and the botched attempt only served to embarrass the U.S. government and expand Castro’s popularity.

But in the last two decades a series of profound transformations in politics and the global economy have added new capabilities to mafia states thus spurring their influence. These are countries in which the traditional concepts of corruption, organized crime, or government agencies infiltrated by criminal groups do not fully capture the phenomenon in all its complexity, magnitude, and consequences. In mafia states, it is not the criminals who capture the state through the bribery and extortion of officials, but it is the state that controls the criminal networks. It runs them for the benefit of government leaders and their network of accomplices and associates. When it takes over existing criminal cartels it’s not to stamp them out, but to control and use them for the benefit of the criminalized government elites.

In countries like Bulgaria, Guinea-Bissau, Montenegro, Myanmar, Ukraine, North Korea, Afghanistan, or Venezuela, the national interest and the interests of organized crime are inextricably intertwined. In Bulgaria, for example, Atanas Atanasov, a member of Parliament and former head of counterintelligence has famously said that “other countries have the mafia; in Bulgaria the mafia has the country.”

In Venezuela, the former Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte is providing ample evidence confirming that senior Venezuelan government officials double as the heads of important transnational criminal gangs. In 2008, the United States accused Venezuelan General Henry Rangel Silva of “materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities.” Earlier this year, President Hugo Chávez appointed him Minister of Defense. In 2010, another Venezuelan, Walid Makled, accused by various governments of being the head of one of the largest drug cartels, confessed upon his capture that he had documents, videos, and recordings incriminating 15 Venezuelan generals, the brother of the Minister of the Interior and 5 members of the National Assembly.

In Afghanistan, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and governor of Kandahar, killed in 2011, faced repeated accusations of involvement in the opium trade, the main economic activity of the country. According to the Financial Times, in Afghanistan the amount of money illicitly moved overseas by traffickers and officials in suitcases stuffed with dollar bills is roughly equivalent to the total national budget.

This criminalization of the state is not confined to war-torn countries like Afghanistan, failed states like Guinea-Bissau, or those overwhelmed by drug trafficking. It is impossible, for example, to thoroughly understand the dynamic, the prices, the intermediaries, and the structure of distribution networks of the gas imported by Europe from Russia and other Eurasian nations through Ukraine and other countries, without taking into account the role of organized crime in this lucrative business. It is naïve to assume that the governing elites of these countries are only victims or passively watch as bystanders how a massive trade that is based on opaque corporate entities and furtive owners generates immense profits that are vaporized through clandestine channels. Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Balkans, or Eastern Europe are also rife with criminal enterprises whose daily activities are simply too large and visible to assume that governments are not actively involved in their management, protection and promotion.

This suggests that contemporary mafia states have acquired an importance that should prompt us to rethink traditional concepts based in a world order fundamentally composed of nation states and nongovernmental organizations like businesses, religious and scientific institutions, charities, terrorists, rogue criminals networks etc. The modern mafia state is a hybrid whose behavior and reach we do not understand well. Largely because we have not yet fully grasped its dangerous mutation and the heightened danger it poses.


Big-mouth Gotti ruined mob, Gambino informant testifies

John Gotti whacked the mob.

The publicity-loving “Dapper Don’’ — who could never keep his mouth shut — played right into the hands of law enforcement by transforming the Mafia from a secret society into a public spectacle, a fellow mobster said yesterday.

“He ruined everything,” Peter “Bud” Zuccaro lamented in Brooklyn federal court.

“He publicized everything that was going on. He brought everything that was supposed to be a secret society right out to the forefront, right into the press,” said Zuccaro, a longtime Gambino associate who flipped in 2005 to become an FBI informant.

Gotti took the helm of the Gambino family after orchestrating the very public execution of his predecessor, Paul Castellano, outside Sparks Steak House in December 1985.

And after that, nothing was the same. What had been a secret criminal culture, Zuccaro said, was transformed into a swaggering enterprise — with flashy wiseguys ignoring omerta and bragging about their exploits.

Older mob leaders had stayed under the radar, blending into the workaday world by pretending to hold legit jobs while they conducted their criminal business in quiet meetings.

But Gotti was seduced by the celebrity life — and turned into more of a diva than a don.

He loved posing for cameras and thrived in the spotlight — and soon Mafia secrets became public knowledge.

Quiet meetings in small groups at diners became a thing of the past.

Suddenly mob business was conducted by “guys reporting to the [Ravenite Social] Club while the FBI is surveilling you,” Zuccaro said, speaking of the clubhouse in Little Italy where the nattily dressed Gotti held court.

“He just brought everything into public view,” Zuccaro said.

“He let it be a known thing, you know — flash — everybody hanging out together.”

The mobsters under Gotti often took the easy way out — using violence as a quick solution to problems.

High-profile hits, as well as Gotti’s performance in the spotlight, brought more and more attention from the FBI.

And when the heat was turned up, made men began to flip to save their own hides and became turncoats, like Zuccaro himself.

Zuccaro was testifying at the trial of John Burke, a Gambino associate accused of several mob-related drug murders.

The 56-year-old, who is in the witness protection program, also admitted that in 1986 he lied on the stand as a defense witness at a Gotti trial, where the Don was acquitted.

“I testified as a defense witness for John Gotti Sr.,” Zuccaro said.

“I lied to protect the [Gambino] family. I can’t put a number on how many lies. I lied,’’ he said.

“But I told the truth, too.”

This was not the first time Gotti’s former colleagues piled on him.

Ranking mobsters from New York’s four other crime families have often cited Gotti’s larger-than-life approach to Mafia life as factors that helped authorities bring down the mob.




Mafia down but not out, 20 years after judge dies

Twenty years after Italian judge Giovanni Falcone was assassinated by the Sicilian mafia in a bombing that shocked a nation, Cosa Nostra’s grip has been weakened but is far from over.

Seventy-five-year-old Vincenzo Agostino, one the many bereaved relatives of Mafia victims, swore he would not cut his hair or beard until police found the killers of his policeman son Nino, shot outside his home on August 5, 1989.

Nino’s story is linked to that of Falcone, the most famous anti-Mafia prosecutor, since the 29-year-old agent managed to avert an earlier assassination bid on the judge, who was eventually killed on May 23, 1992.

Nino had found a sack filled with dynamite sticks when he went fishing near a villa that was being rented by Falcone near Palermo.

“The magistrates told me. One day you’ll see what a hero your son was,” Vincenzo told AFP alongside his wife Augusta, who still dresses in mourning black, standing in front of Palermo’s enormous court building.

“After 23 years, nothing. No-one wants to talk. I’m still waiting for justice,” said Vincenzo, his white hair tumbling to his shoulders, beard covering his chest.

On the motorway from the airport to the centre, a tall red monument stands in memory of the 500-kilogram bomb used in the attack on a motorcade which killed Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and three bodyguards.

To the right on a hillside stands the small outbuilding in which mafioso Giovanni Brusca activated the detonator on orders from the then head of the Mafia, Toto Riina. Both men are now serving out life sentences.

The killing of Falcone has not yielded all its mysteries.

“The Mafia was the armed wing but you have to look among the white collars and the palaces of Rome. It’s a dragon with many heads,” sighed Vincenzo.

Journalists and prosecutors have been investigating for years a possible “state plot” to eliminate Falcone and his colleague Paolo Borsellino — murdered by a Mafia car bomb on July 19, 1992 — because their inquiries were destabilising political power.

The sacrifice of the two judges will not be in vain, said Giuseppe D’Agata, who leads the anti-Mafia force in Palermo, an Italian FBI created by Falcone.

“The figure of an isolated magistrate, of the maverick police investigator, has disappeared. We have created organised structures to coordinate judicial activity and police investigations,” D’Agata said.

The state has also bolstered sentences for convicted mobsters as well as toughening prison conditions and has adopted laws allowing for the seizure of criminal assets.

There is “permanent control of Cosa Nostra, of the Mafia’s dynamics, its structure, its money flows, its effect on the social fabric,” said D’Agata.

Crackdowns in the 1990s and 2000s and the arrests of Riina and his successor Bernardo Provenzano have left the Mafia weakened.

“Cosa Nostra is going through an identity crisis. All the equilibriums have gone but we can’t rest on our laurels. The Mafia is a human factor that modifies and evolves with time,” D’Agata said.

Antonio Catalano, a 46-year-old engineer and the head of a building company, knows something about those changes.

He was twice the victim of attempted extortion — in 2006 and 2011.

Each time, thugs came to him directly and asked him to “put things in order” or “send a little present” to their boss.

“The first time I was really scared because of the physical threats against my family. I didn’t dare to tell anyone except to a priest friend and a prosecutor,” Catalano said.

Luckily he managed to overcome his worries and report the threat to police. To his surprise the people who threatened him were arrested and convicted in just six months.

“Things have changed a lot in the last five or 10 years. Businessmen no longer have to be afraid of indifference or laxitude of state forces,” he said.

The engineer said mentalities in Sicily have also changed a lot, as shown by the rise of anti-racket associations like Addio Pizzo or Libera, which was set up by Catholic priest Don Luigi Ciotti to denounce extortion and manage goods confiscated from the Mafia.

On the building that Catalano is renovating, a large sign reads: “Here we’re building a free future.” He and his colleagues have signed an anti-racket pact, putting the refusal to collaborate with the Mafia in their statutes.

But he added: “The Mafia has not disappeared and it would be naive to think that such a lively organisation can be rooted out from this territory.”




The Mafia wives who want out

One vanished. Another killed herself by drinking acid. For women who marry into the Mob, there is often no escape – even if they turn to the police for protection.

When Maria Concetta Cacciola drank the bottle of acid that would kill her in August last year, one can only imagine what was going through her mind. The mother of three, 31, had effectively been imprisoned in the family home in the dreary town of Rosarno, in the southern Italian region of Calabria, and probably envisaged a life of torment that made her agonising death pale in comparison. Women from mafia families who seek to sever ties with organised crime face tough choices. Many fear a life of deprivation, loneliness and, of course, retaliation.

Ms Cacciola experienced all of the above, according to investigators who last month pieced together the events that led to her death. Her relatives were leading members of Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia, and she had made the unforgivable error of attempting to escape their criminal lifestyle by contacting the authorities, offering information on arms stashes in exchange for protection. But having fled and given evidence, she decided she could not live without her three young children, who she was forced to leave behind.

Ignoring advice from police and lawyers, she retracted her testimony and left the northern city of Genova on 10 August to return to the family home. But ‘Ndrangheta does not forget, and it does not forgive those who break its code of silence. After 10 days of psychological and physical abuse, allegedly at the hands of her own family, Ms Cacciola drank the bottle of muriatic acid and died in agony soon afterwards.

Her mother, father and brother were arrested last month, accused of using threatening behaviour and physical violence against her. Ms Cacciola’s death came four months after another ‘Ndrangheta refugee, Tita Buccafusca, 38, the wife of the mobster Pantaleone Mancuso, died after drinking sulphuric acid in mysterious circumstances. She too, had made a bid for freedom.

Some female informants, such as Denise Garofalo, 20, continue to receive state protection for the evidence they provide. It is difficult to imagine the trauma she experienced in testifying against her mobster father, Carlo Cosco, after he organised the abduction, torture and murder of her mother.

In November 2009, Cosco, a key ‘Ndrangheta figure in Milan, lured Ms Garofalo’s mother, Lea, who was also an informant, to No 6 Viale Montello, a notorious ‘Ndrangheta stronghold in the city. Ostensibly, the meeting was to discuss funding their daughter’s higher education. Soon afterwards, she disappeared and was never seen again. In March, Cosco and five others – including two of his brothers – were jailed for life for the killing. The trial heard that Ms Garofalo’s body was dissolved in an acid bath in a warehouse north of Milan in a lupara bianca – a mafia hit designed to remove any traces of the deceased.

Denise Garofalo raised the alarm when her mother went missing; she said she knew immediately what had happened. She suffered the additional torment of having to live with her killer father for several months before his arrest. He told her on numerous occasions: “If you were to rebel against me, you’d end up the same way.” But she did rebel, providing key testimony against her father. And when, for technical reasons, the trial had to be restarted, she relived the trauma again.

“This trial will be remembered as an historic mafia trial,” said Vincenza Rando, a lawyer with the anti-mafia campaign group Libera, who also gave evidence. “There were six life sentences – and this despite the fact no body was recovered. And this was thanks to the incredible bravery of Denise Garofalo.”

Corrado De Rosa, a psychiatrist and expert witness in mafia trials, said women who seek a way out of their mafia lives tend to fall into groups. “One group is looking to denounce someone who has killed one of their loved ones,” he said. “The other concerns those who want to free themselves from the tyranny of the clan. Effectively, to make a gesture of rebellion.”

Ms Cacciola was forced into a loveless marriage at the age of 16, with a man who almost immediately disappeared into the solitary confinement wing of a prison. From then on, she was rarely allowed out of the house, and complained to her few friends of her oppressed existence at the hands of her parents as she strove for the freedoms most young women take for granted.

“Women don’t exist in ‘Ndrangheta society,” said Laura Garavini, a Democratic Party MP and a member of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission. “They are silent. They cannot participate in the organisation’s activities. They are objects.”

The deaths of women like Lea Garofalo, Maria Cacciola and Tita Buccafusca are Italy’s honour killings. After announcing warrants for the arrest of Ms Cacciola’s immediate family, an investigating magistrate in Calabria said: “This is a dreadful story that relates to a young woman forced to suffer years of serious psychological abuse and physical violence in a horrible system that puts the protection of the family’s honour ahead of everything else.”

“The nature of these deaths is a warning to other ‘Ndrangheta women who might be thinking of rebelling,” said Ms Garavini. “But things are changing. Some of the women are rebelling and ‘Ndrangheta is terrified.”

Ms Cacciola’s cousin, Giuseppina Pesce, is now also collaborating with prosecutors, even helping them to jail some of her family members. But with the odds still stacked against women seeking an escape, the state must do more to help them, says Ms Garavini. In the wake of the Cacciola case, Ms Garavini has tabled a parliamentary question for the Interior Minister, asking why the authorities are not working to allow female informants to take their children when they go into hiding.

Maria Cacciola returned to what would be the scene of her death in order to see her children. Lea Garofalo met her killer because the state was paying him the child support she needed to pay for their daughter’s higher education. “Both of these horrible deaths could have been avoided if the state had supported them as mothers of young children within the witness-protection programme,” Ms Garavini said.

Ms Rando spoke to Lea Garofalo, whom she described as an “intelligent, sensitive, moral person, who simply wanted a better life for herself and her daughter” two days before she was abducted and killed. At this point, Ms Garofalo had abandoned the witness protection programme; she had been dropped from it once and left after rowing with the interior ministry after her evidence had not brought indictments.

“She told me she felt alone and abandoned,” said Ms Rando. “But the state should always support these witnesses and never leave them by themselves.”

Mr Rando has high hopes, though, for Lea’s daughter, Denise. Her ambition is to move abroad, perhaps to the US or Australia, and start a new life as an interpreter. She has been given a new name and is studying languages.

The armed carabinieri officers who follow her everywhere show that her life is far from normal. But her determination is evident. In one of her few public comments during the trial of her father, she said: “My mother paid with her life for her decision to give me a better future, far from the blood and the feuding. And now I’m going to carry on with what she started. I’m going to live a normal life – for my mother as well.”

Married to the mob: gangster spouses

Al Capone’s wife Mary “Mae” Coughlin Capone was born in 1897 to Irish parents in Brooklyn, New York. She didn’t marry the notorious crime boss until after giving birth to their son, Albert, in 1918. Widowed in 1947, when Al succumbed to a stroke, Mae died in 1986.

Esta Krakower married Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the mobster known as the “man who built Las Vegas”, in January 1928. Siegel’s childhood sweetheart, Esta was the sister of contract killer Whitey Krakower, a hitman for Muder Inc.