Target: Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano in Rome this month after an emergency meeting on security. Photo: AP
Rome: Six alleged mafia mobsters have been arrested by Italian police during dawn raids in the notorious Cosa Nostra stronghold of Corleone in Sicily on suspicion of plotting to murder the country’s Interior Minister.
The suspects allegedly wanted to kill Angelino Alfano because of his support for toughening up the prison regime under which the most feared mafiosi are kept. Convicted mobsters are subjected to solitary confinement with limited family visits and few opportunities for exercise or recreation.
The Friday arrests followed a year-long investigation in which the police intercepted phone calls and conversations between the suspects, who plotted during secret meetings in the countryside around Corleone.
An Italian Carabiniere holds a picture of arrested Mafia boss Giuseppe Lo Bue during a press conference in Palermo, Italy, on Friday. Photo: AP
They compared the planned plot on the life of Mr Alfano with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The plotters claimed that Kennedy had been assassinated by the American mafia, claiming that he had relied on mobsters during his election campaign but then failed to make good on his promises.
They alleged that Mr Alfano, who is from Sicily and is a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-Right Forza Italia party, had similarly leant on Cosa Nostra for electoral support but had then turned against them.
“Alfano is a pig,” one of the alleged conspirators said in an intercepted conversation. This p—- took everybody’s votes – votes from the friends – and he ended up where he is now, with Berlusconi, and now everything is being forgotten.
Anti-Mafia prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi, right, and Carabinieri Colonel Giuseppe De Riggi brief journalists about the police operation in Corleone. Photo: AP
“I said to Vincenzo, if there is agreement, we’re going to —- this guy over. We’ll —- him up, we’ll smash his head in. It’s going to need a bit of work.
“Kennedy did exactly what Alfano is doing now – he came to power with votes from Cosa Nostra in America and then turned his back on them.” The plotters, most of whom live on farms around Corleone, discussed where to target the minister.
They first proposed carrying out an attack in Rome, but then concluded that it would be easier to kill him in Sicily, where he was expected for an electoral campaign. They also discussed hiding weapons for the plot.
Fearing that the scheme might be coming to fruition, paramilitary Carabinieri police officers carried out raids involving sniffer dogs and a helicopter in the hilltop town of Corleone, which was immortalised in The Godfather books and subsequent films starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
“The plan was to attack when Alfano’s security was lessened,” said Francesco Lo Voi, a prosecutor involved in the investigation. The minister and his bodyguards had been alerted to the alleged plot.
The prosecutor dismissed the idea that the suspects had any insight into who was behind Kennedy’s murder.
“There are several fiction films on the subject, I imagine they have seen one of them,” he said.
Among those arrested was Rosario Lo Bue, 62, alleged to be a leader of the mafia in Corleone, a tough town set amid scrub and wind farms south of Palermo.
Mr Lo Bue trekked miles across the countryside to get to secret meetings with his accomplices to evade police surveillance.
The suspects are allegedly closely connected to Salvatore “The Beast” Riina, a former Cosa Nostra boss who has been in prison for 22 years, where he is subject to the high-security regime. Riina was arrested in Palermo in 1993 and sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of multiple murders.
Nicknamed in Sicilian dialect “U Curtu”, or Shorty, and in standard Italian “La Belva” or The Beast, Riina, now 85, is believed to have personally killed about 40 people and to have ordered the assassination of many more.
He was succeeded as the “capo di tutti capi” (boss of bosses) by Bernardo “The Tractor” Provenzano, who in turn was arrested in 2006 after more than 40 years as a fugitive.
Politicians from all parties expressed their solidarity with Mr Alfano.