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Inside The Sicilian Mafia’s Drug Empire

Hidden amongst lush tangerine orchards in 1970s Sicily lay the heart of Michele ‘The Pope’ Greco’s drugs empire…


Giuseppe Greco’s death from a tumor last February garnered more press than his movies ever did. The obituaries read like a string of bad reviews, casting the filmmaker’s career in the shadow of the Mafia. The plot points are damning: he served a four-year sentence for laundering illicit money through his productions; he borrowed a deluxe Mercedes 500 from Palermo’s crooked mayor, Salvo Lima, for a film shoot; and, after jail, he wrote and directed a family saga that romanticises the Mafia of old Sicily.

But the piece of publicity that stuck to him most was the kind you can’t buy and wouldn’t want to: Giuseppe was the son of Michele Greco, the infamous “Pope” of the Mafia.

Don Michele Greco, the debonair silver fox whose ever-present Bible and prayer cards lent him a pious air, was the toast of Palermitan society in the 1970s. His estate, “Favarella,” in the eastern suburb of Ciaculli, was a lush expanse of tangerine orchards with plenty of wild game to excite the sportsmen among the local elites. Many of the rooms in Greco’s lodge had giant ovens and barbecue grills enjoyed by the business leaders, politicians and policemen who were frequent guests. Favorites were given a key to the gate.

Yet the virtuous world of Greco the country gentleman was illusory. The best parcels of land were not inherited but wrenched from nobility by intimidation tactics that whittled the selling price to a symbolic fee. The neighbors were also coerced into selling cheap.

The Grecos of Ciaculli and the Grecos of the adjacent Croceverde Giardini—related by marriage—were not gentry but a criminal dynasty. A violent history that included a mid-century feud positioned Don Michele to assume the role of the region’s “emperor,” a word he preferred to “pope” for its hereditary connotation. Favarella was the throne of his empire, supported by roguish relatives like the psychopathic killer, Pino “Little Shoe” Greco.

Michele Greco’s aggressive land acquisition was not an attempt to corner the tangerine market but rather to control the water below the surface. Though the public owned a large portion of it, Greco and his fellow mafiosi sold to Palermo a third of its water supply at a premium. The city coffers were siphoned most heavily during the dry season. Such a scheme would be impossible without the help of able profiteers like Mayor Lima and his public works chief, Vito Ciancimino, both of the Mafia-friendly Christian Democratic Party.

Favarella was much more than a weekend playground for Greco’s well-heeled crowd. Deep among the citrus trees was a building used for refining heroin by the syndicate from Corleone, run by godfather Luciano Leggio and his lieutenant Totò Riina. A network of tunnels was dug below the orchards to allow escape during a raid.

Ascendant in power around Palermo, the Corleonesi pushed a member off the ruling Mafia Commission to make room for Greco, whose legitimizing presence and papal diplomacy would sway decisions in their favor. He also became a spy for Riina at numerous Mafia summits held on the estate.

Riina’s constant impulse was to eliminate perceived threats in the most final of terms. Dozens of enemies came to an end on Favarella following Greco’s secret debriefings, including his drug-trade competitor Rosario Riccobono, despised for killing an old friend. As the successful boss slept off a sumptuous Christmas dinner hosted by Riina and Greco, “Little Shoe” crept up and strangled him. Several of Riccobono’s men were likewise slaughtered on that evening in 1982, reduced in acid and buried on the grounds.

The bloodbath only increased as the power-mad Riina declared war on a new generation of government prosecutors intent on ending Mafia corruption. Carried out by Greco and his clan, the streets of Palermo became strewn with the “excellent cadavers” of anti-Mafia officials: General Dalla Chiesa, Judge Chinnici, Judge Falcone and many more.

After police caught up with the fugitive “Pope” Greco, Bible in hand, he assumed the role of a victimised small farmer: “I’ve been ruined by this mistaken identity with the Grecos of Ciaculli; I belong to the Grecos of Croceverde Giardini. Violence is beneath my dignity. I mind my own business, tending the trees and the land…. The Mafia I know is the Mafia everybody knows. Even to talk about drugs disgusts me. All that I possess is the fruit of my labor and the heritage of my parents.”

When asked by a reporter how a self-proclaimed peasant could run with such an affluent crowd, he said, “At sixteen I began to go trapshooting. Now I’m sixty-two—do the math. There [at Favarella], I met the best class of Palermitan society. I made friendships that have lasted all my life.”

But aside from a temporary prison release decreed by a “friendly” judge nicknamed “the sentence killer,” none of his friends could help him. In a cage at the historic Mafia maxi-trial of 1987, charged with seventy-eight murders, Greco delivered a typically cryptic invocation to his prosecutor that was half blessing, half threat:

“I wish you peace, Mr. President…because peace is tranquillity of the spirit, the conscience. And for the duty that awaits you, serenity is the foundation on which to judge. Those aren’t my words, they’re the words of our Lord who commanded Moses: ‘When you must judge, decide with the utmost of serenity.’ And I wish, Mr. President, that this peace accompanies you for the rest of your life.”

Greco died in prison at the age of eighty-three, with a Bible by his side, on February, 13, 2008. His son Giuseppe, the director who never lived down his family’s reputation, died three years later in friendly territory: Croceverde Giardini.

by Bluto Ray
Source: sabotagetimes.com



Anti-mafia raids target Rome, Calabria

Italian police said they launched two major anti-mafia operations Friday in Rome and the southern region of Calabria, targeting around 100 people.

The Rome operation, described by Italian media as the largest ever undertaken in the capital region, targeted people who helped lead “illegal activities” in the city and the suburb of Ostia, police spokesman Mario Viola told AFP.
The second, entirely separate operation targeted members of the Ndrangheta in Catanzaro, Calabria, Viola said, adding that 50 arrest warrants were issued for each of the operations.
In Calabria, the arrest warrants concerned “50 to 70 people, including entrepreneurs, politicians and lawyers”, Viola said.

In Italy, arrest warrants can be issued against people already detained for other offences.
By early morning, the police were unable to say how many had been detained as part of the raids.
According to the Italian news agency Ansa, around 500 police officers took part in the Rome operation, “the largest ever undertaken” by the police in and around the capital. A helicopter, dog units and maritime police took part in it.

Source: foxnews.com


Mafia leader arrested for running gang from hospital

Cosenza, July 17 – A leader of an ‘Ndrangheta clan, living in a private hospital in the northern Calabrian city of Cosenza, received payments there from his gang’s extortion activities, police said Wednesday.

Mario Musacco, leader of the ‘Ndrangheta-Perna Cicero clan, was arrested after police used hidden cameras in the hospital to document the clan deals.

Several members of the clan, suspected of running protection rackets against businesses and shops, were picked up by police earlier in the day.

‘Ndrangheta is Italy’s richest and most dangerous mafia.


Dozens arrested in mafia-linked drugs trafficking bust in Italy

Catanzaro, 13 Feb. – Italy’s tax police said Wednesday they had broken up a drugs trafficking gang based in southern Calabria region and the north and arrested 43 people with suspected mafia links. A total 250 kiilos of hasish and 60 kilos of cocaine was seized in the operation.

The arrests were carried out in Calabria and in the northern business capital Milan – a Calabrian mafia stronghold – in other unspecified Italian provinces and in Spain, according to police.

The suspects are accused of international drugs trafficking between Spain and Colombia. They include alleged members of several of the Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangheta’s clans southern and northern Italy, police said.
Officers from Milan and from the tax police’s organised crime branch in the Italian capital, Rome, were involved in the operation.

Source: AKI


Italian police seize castle in €65m tax probe

Yesterday Italian police have seized assets worth €65m (£51.9m) in a tax probe involving the €5.3bn sale of fashion houses Hugo Boss and Valentino in 2007.
Italy’s tax police said on Monday they had confiscated real estate, including a 15th century castle, land and corporate holdings of 13 people “linked to one of Italy’s most important families in the fashion and textile sector”.
A person familiar with the investigation told Reuters the 13 people in question were linked to the Marzotto group, and included members of the Marzotto family.
Marzotto sold Valentino Fashion Group – then including both the Valentino label and Hugo Boss – to private finance group Permira in 2007.
The assets, including apartments in Milan and Rome, a 25-room villa in Alpine resort Cortina d’Ampezzo and land, were taken preventively to cover €65m in taxes the 13 people are suspecting of having dodged when they booked a €200m capital gain from selling Valentino, reports the Financial Times.
The Marzotto family members avoided Italian tax obligations by using a Luxembourg-based holding company for the Valentino sale.
Those under investigation are suspected of not having filed tax returns.
A spokesperson for the Marzotto Group declined to comment, saying the news did not involve the company or any of its units.
The Italian government has set fighting chronic tax evasion as one of its priorities as it seeks to come to grips with the country’s towering debt crisis and find resources to fund growth.
Lawyers representing the Marzotto family said the decision taken by Milan prosecutors ordering the seizure was “totally groundless”.
The lawyers said bank documents showed capital gains from the operation had been declared and taxed.
“I acknowledge the seizure measures. I think it right only to point out that I did not have any operative position in the company in which I was minority partner,” Matteo Marzotto, a board member of the textile family group, said in a statement.
The seized castle, Villa Trissino Marzotto, is near the town of Vicenza and has been in the Marzotto family for 60 years. With more than 50 rooms, it was expanded in the 18th century and has on its grounds two Italian-style geometrical gardens, a small forest, a road lined with lemon trees and more than 100 statues, reports the Financial Times.
The technocrat government of Prime Minister Mario Monti has described the fight against tax evasion as a state of war and has stepped up monitoring and collection efforts.
Earlier this year the head of Italy’s Inland Revenue service, Attilio Befera, said tax evasion totalled some €120bn.
“The investigation… revealed that a financial holding company purposefully created in Luxembourg was instead administered from Italy,” the police said.

Source: uk.finance.yahoo.com


Entire Italian city government fired for mafia ties

The Italian government has dissolved the administration of the mafia-plagued southern city of Reggio Calabria after a city counselor was arrested on mafia charges.

Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri announced the decision Tuesday. It came after an investigation into the city administration following the arrest last year of a city counselor on mafia association charges. Calabria is home to the powerful `ndrangheta organized crime syndicate.

Italian law calls for such investigations to determine if there was any possible mafia infiltration in the city administration. Cancellieri said the decision was taken to prevent any “contagion” in the city government.

While smaller city administrations have been dissolved for similar reasons, Cancellieri said this was the first time the administration of a provincial capital had been dissolved. Three commissioners will run the city for 18 months until elections.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


UPDATED: Second shooting in Milan after mafia-style killings

Updated: Sept 15, 2012 “Investigators: killer used only one gun in Milan murders”

The killer who murdered Massimiliano Spelta and his wife Carolina Payano Ortiz in Milan shot only one gun. This is the assumption of the investigators who, for the time being, seem to exclude the possibility that the murderer might have used more than one weapon. The doubt arose because the gun used is thought to be a revolver (which normally carries a maximum of 6 shots) while the number of bullet holes found during the autopsy is of 7 (5 on Spelta and 2 on his wife). However the Chief of the Milan flying squad Alessandro Giuliano specified that “a single bullet can also cause more than one holes”.

Moreover, it seems “improbable that several weapons were used because it would have made the action much more complex”


The occupants of an Audi car opened fire on the driver of a Ford Focus in a street in the north of Milan on Tuesday, police said, less than 24 hours after a mafia-style execution unusual in Italy’s financial capital.

Witnesses at the scene told police the people in the car could have been foreigners, possibly South Americans. Police said it was unlikely anyone had been hurt.

On Monday, masked bikers shot dead an Italian entrepreneur and his girlfriend at close range.

Massimiliano Spelta, a 43-year-old former owner of a pharmaceutical company, was approached by two men on a scooter and shot with five bullets as he walked down a street in central Milan, an Italian police official said.

His 21-year-old Dominican partner was gunned down as she attempted to escape holding her 18-month-old daughter, the only one to survive the attack. Both the killer and the driver of the scooter wore helmets that covered their faces.

The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, the police official said.

Police said they had found 47 grams of cocaine in the slain couple’s apartment.

Organised crime in Italy has long been associated with Sicily, Naples, Calabria and other poorer regions in the south.

But over the past few years the tentacles of the mafia have reached Italy’s prosperous north, where a Calabria-based organisation known as ‘Ndrangheta has become active.

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca, Sara Rossi, Chiara Prazzoli and Ilaria Polleschi; Editing by Andrew Osborn)   Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Also read: Two killed in mafia-style shooting in central Milan