In the 1980s, the broad legal mandate of the RICO act succeeded in crushing much of the backbone of the traditional American Mafia. Across the ocean however, in the ancestral Sicilian homeland of La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia was anything but finished. Possessed of a power thought to rival that of the Italian state itself, for the past decades, the Sicilian Mafia has waged a war on the forces of law and order that has not only left thousands dead, but has created a ripple effect of crime and violence that can be felt on the streets of America’s cities today.
Taking us into the eye of this criminal storm, Boss of Bosses tells the story of Bernardo Provenzano, who rose from humble origins to become the head of the Sicilian Mafia, overseeing a deadly empire of corruption so large in scope, the full sweep of its dark reach has yet to be fully accounted. On the run for over 43 years before his arrest, Provenzano’s life is a testament to Mafia history, and typifies the code of the ultimate gangster.
Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.
The author of Mafia Women and No Questions Asked, CLARE LONGRIGG is perhaps the leading British expert on the Mafia. In this new biography she draws on her vast experience and wide range of contacts to paint a portrait of a secretive and immensely powerful man, who for decades controlled the Mafia with an iron hand.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter OneCorleone bandits On a Spring night in 1958 four horsemen galloped across a farm on the plain below Corleone and rode up to one of the barns. They crept inside carrying axes and shovels, and smashed the wine barrels, splintering the seasoned wood and releasing rivers of strong red wine. The raiders worked for Luciano Liggio, a low-life peasant upstart and cattle rustler. They wanted this farm and were determined to drive the farmer off his own land. The corn ripened and stood, growing darker, and no one dared to cut it. The local peasant workers had been threatened with death if any of them went to harvest that land. Finally the farmer and a few hired hands went out before dawn, working in fear and haste. But no one would thresh the corn, so it lay where it had been cut until Liggio’s men came with their trucks, loaded it up and drove it away. The vines with their purple grapes were smashed and burned. The cattle’s water troughs, set in cement and fed with pipes from a spring, were stacked with explosives and blown up. One night the gang turned up at the farm store with a truck and held the guard hostage with his own hunting rifle while they loaded up seventy barrels of pecorino cheese. As a final insult they stole the rifle. When the farmer had nothing left to lose, he finally called the police. The thieves, all of them well known in the local community, were rounded up and escorted to the station. So, at the age of twenty-five, Bernardo Provenzano got his first criminal charge, for stealing cheese. The police mugshot shows a clean-faced young man in jacket and tie, with his curly hair carefully greased back and an insolent look. This mugshot would be the only record of his existence for many years to come. It would be aged by computer, studied by psychological profilers, examined by investigators. His pale, deep-set eyes and prominent cheekbones, immortalized in that black-and-white photo, reveal little of the man except for his square-jawed peasant stock and his fearlessness. A cheese thief, and a good shot – he could shoot a hole in a coin thrown up in the air – he was known to his friends as Binnu. The other members of Liggio’s gang were: Giuseppe Ruffino, Liggio’s lieutenant, who had the same violent streak; Calogero Bagarella, son of a Mafia family and the only one younger than Provenzano; and Giovanni Pasqua, Liggio’s childhood friend and brother in arms. They would be joined by others, most notably Bagarella’s younger brother Leoluca, and Salvatore (Totò) Riina, who became Provenzano’s friend and running mate. All of them were ambitious, like their leader, to move beyond the confines of Corleone – of hunger, blistered hands and animal stench. To these young men the Mafia represented the only way to climb out of poverty, and in Liggio they had a leader whose ruthlessness gave them inspiration. Binnu was silent and diffdent; when they were waiting for orders or discussing their next move, he seemed moody and sullen, and always had a question or an objection to make. But once he had decided on a course of action, nothing would stop him. Totò was more sociable, teasing and ragging his mates, always ready with a put-down to make everyone laugh. He was the only one who joshed Binnu; the others kept a little more distance. Liggio, an aggressive little man who suffered from a debilitating condition of the spine and a vicious temper, had no sentimental attachment to the rural poverty in which he was raised. As a teenager, realizing he would never get far as an illiterate farm-hand, he went to find the schoolmistress and told her she must teach him to read and write or he’d set fire to her house. Like many young men who later became mafiosi, Liggio began his career as an estate guard, protecting the wealth of absentee landlords. In 1948 he murdered the young trade union activist Placido Rizzotto, who had been heading a campaign to defend peasants’ land rights. Liggio marched his victim out into the rocky countryside, where he shot him and threw his body into one of the deep ravines at the foot of the mountains. Liggio’s status rose with that cold-blooded murder: ridding Corleone of a troublesome advocate of peasants’ rights went down well with a certain class of landowner. Provenzano was fifteen when Rizzotto was killed, and had been working among the peasants for over half his short life. He admired the way Liggio dealt with the problem and got away with it. He saw that the community, and the dead man’s family, were powerless to raise a hand against the young mafioso. Provenzano’s other important model as a young man was the Mafia boss of Corleone, the eminent doctor Michele Navarra. An educated man from a middle-class family, Navarra was well connected in politics and industry, and wielded considerable power in the region. In Corleone, Dr Navarra was known as padre nostrum, Our Father. He had many political friends but would not hesitate to switch allegiance from one party to another if it offered him an advantage – a lesson that was not lost on the young Provenzano. The talents he later developed for mediating between the Mafia and political power, switching between political parties, combining traditional values with forward-looking pragmatism, were all learned from Dr Navarra. When Navarra began to receive petitions from farm owners across the county, begging him to put a stop to Liggio’s gang’s nightly raids, he ordered Liggio to stop stealing cattle. Liggio’s response was to force landowners to sell their acres to him and to start a cattle ranch stocked almost entirely with stolen livestock and run by Provenzano, Riina and the others. They drove the illegally butchered meat down to the market in Palermo; Provenzano rode shotgun on the trucks, but once his boss had witnessed his cool-headed efficiency with a pistol, he became Liggio’s best hit man. The two young friends, Provenzano and Riina, were Liggio’s lieutenants and bodyguards. They were both short: neither more than five foot six, but Binnu was strong and thick set, with a muscular neck and broad shoulders. Totò was shorter (his nickname was u curtu, ‘Shorty’), with a lighter build and dark, shifty eyes. They both wore their thick, dark curly hair shaved at the nape and greased back. They were both extremely respectful of their boss and careful never to arouse his wrath. ‘Liggio had a look that struck fear even in us mafiosi’, a pentito later admitted. ‘It took only the slightest thing to get him worked up, and then there would be a strange light in his eyes that silenced everyone around . . . You could sense death hovering in the air. He was changeable and moody as a child.’4 From handling Liggio’s capricious demands Provenzano learned the diplomatic skills that would become his greatest asset. Liggio was determined to take on Navarra and the Palermo Mafia, and he found a way to do it: water. Cosa Nostra controlled the supply of water to the lemon and mandarin groves in Palermo’s ‘Golden Basin’. A proposal to build a dam to supply Palermo would bypass the Palermo bosses, and Liggio was determined to get his hands on it. The dam project became the central issue of a forthcoming election. Liggio dragged his young thugs off their horses, smartened them up and sent them out with leaflets campaigning for the candidate who supported the dam. As far as Navarra was concerned, the dam would never be built: the projected reservoir would flood land belonging to his friends, but, more importantly, it would disrupt the Mafia’s lucrative monopoly of the water system. He threw his weight behind the Christian Democrat candidate, who opposed the dam. Next to Navarra, Liggio was a novice at politics. Hundreds of Corleonesi reportedly went blind on election day, so that Dr Navarra could accompany them into the polling booth and make sure they put their cross in the right place. The Christian Democrats enjoyed a comfortable win, and Liggio was incensed. A long period of skirmishing between Liggio and Navarra erupted into open war. The feud between the two men laid waste to a generation of Corleonesi, with over fifty murders, twenty-two attempted murders and many more ‘disappeared’. Early one morning in June 1958 Liggio staged an ambush for Navarra. On the winding country road to Corleone, where pine trees measured out the miles and the verges plunged down into deep ditches, Liggio blocked the road with his car and lay in wait. When Navarra came driving along with another doctor, he was forced off the road and blasted by several guns. As the car was ripped full of holes, both doctors died in a storm of bullets and broken glass. Gunning down Navarra was a reckless crime, and Liggio’s men had to keep fighting or risk a revenge attack. Provenzano organized a meeting with a delegation from the enemy ranks, to demand they hand over the men who had shot at his master. They refused, knowing that they would have been making less a peace offering than a bloody sacrifice. On a September evening the procession for the Madonna of the Chain was weaving its way through the streets of Corleone, the drums and trumpets playing, the people, some of them barefoot, droning their tragic hymns to the statue of the Virgin as she was carried around the town. Liggio’s killers ran through the crowds, chasing Navarra’s men. They were shooting back and forth, narrowly missing the screaming crowds, who crammed themselves into doorways and clasped their children to them. Several bystanders were hit. Three of Navarra’s men were killed as they ran, but as the gunmen tried to escape, their route was blocked by the angry crowd, and Provenzano was shot in the head. He collapsed on the pavement, blood pouring from the wound. Ruffino stopped a passing car and lifted him into the back, ordering the driver to take him to hospital. While he was recovering, Provenzano told the carabinieri he had been walking along, heading for the cinema and minding his own business, when something had hit him in the head and he’d lost consciousness. He had no idea what had happened. He got away with it. Provenzano had begun to get a reputation for immunity: his fellow gang members, including his friend Totò Riina, had been arrested and served time in the reeking county prison. Not Binnu. He’d even got off military service after a brief stint in the air force, dismissed on medical grounds, with a glowing conduct report, after six months. In 1960 the police commissioner in Corleone proposed that he be put under special surveillance, and the Palermo court ordered that he be banished to the prison island of Ustica for four years. But he stayed in Corleone, and after a few months the order was withdrawn. This ability to evade the spotlight of investigation, while earning a reputation for ruthlessness and murder, was to become a great asset. As far as Provenzano’s family was concerned, the boy was doing all right. ‘In the 1950s the Mafia was the only means they had to climb the social scale’, says historian Salvatore Lupo. ‘They did not join out of idealism, but purely material concerns: survival, affirmation and power, money. These are people from modest families. They’ve done well for themselves in the Mafia.’ Nino Giuffré, who worked as a teacher, recalled that when he was initiated into the Mafia, his boss said to him: ‘Now you’re a rich man indeed. You’re already a Sicilian, and you’ll be wealthy too.’ Binnu’s parents were a poor peasant couple, Angelo Provenzano and Giovanna Rigoglioso. He was born in Corleone on 31 January 1933, the third of seven brothers and sisters. Peasant labourers in those days gathered in the chill of dawn and waited to be called by name, by the all-powerful farm managers. A day’s hard work in the fields would scarcely bring in enough to feed nine, and the crowded household was occasionally sullen with hunger. Binnu dropped out after the second year of primary school, semi-literate, and went to work in the fields with his father. While most boys his age struggled on for another few years in class, he was living on his wits at the age of seven. His father died in 1958, when Binnu was already established as part of Liggio’s notorious armed gang. His sisters, Rosa, Maria Concetta and Michela Arcangela, had all married local boys, but his brothers still lived at home, and his mother, who pressed and starched their shirts, barely knew where they were most of the time. Binnu would get home in the early evening and eat supper, then he would be out of the door. She suffered a good deal from worrying about the company he kept, but at least he came home at night. Soon he would have to drop out of sight, and for the rest of her life she would see him only fleetingly, on secret visits. On 9 May 1963 four men, Provenzano among them, met at first light on the edge of Corleone, shotguns slung over their backs. They were waiting for one of Navarra’s men, Francesco Streva, who was living in hiding, but Binnu had information that he was due to pass that way. Streva was always armed, and extremely cautious. When Provenzano caught sight of him that May morning, he called out to him. Streva fired at the group and took off across the fields. The gang dispersed, and for the next few months they lived in hiding, staying with trusted family members, meeting after dark, plotting how to kill their enemies and avoid being killed. It was Provenzano’s first taste of exile, and although he didn’t go far from home, he experienced the profound loneliness and exhilarating freedom of living in hiding, which would become his daily reality. Months later Provenzano contacted Streva, offering to meet for peace talks. They made an appointment early in the morning of 10 September, in the wooded countryside near Corleone. Above them lowered the imposing and craggy Rocca Busambra, an impenetrable hiding place for bandits and outlaws. A local farmer taking out his flock heard shots and looked out across the field to see two men, one of whom he recognized as Provenzano, both carrying guns, making off towards the shadowy foot of the mountain. Later that day Streva’s body was found in the woods, alongside two of his men. The dead men’s grieving relatives reported the murders to the police – an unusually drastic and risky move in such a small community. But the sense of outrage was high, and its target was Liggio’s thugs, in particular Bernardo Provenzano. The police reaction to the Corleone Mafia’s activities had thus far been muted. Liggio himself, already a notorious criminal, had been served a polite request by the police to ‘live honestly, respect persons and property, and observe the law’. But after the murders of Streva and his men, people who had been threatened and intimidated, robbed and driven off the land, finally rebelled and signed witness statements. A joint report by Corleone’s police and carabinieri landed on the Palermo prosecutor’s desk, accusing Provenzano of aggravated murder. In spite of numerous witnesses, when the firstmajor case against Provenzano eventually came to court, he was acquitted. He had confronted his enemies face to face, been shot in the head, arrested and tried – it seemed nothing could touch him. P...
Le informazioni nella sezione "Su questo libro" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.
Descrizione libro Thomas Dunne Books, 2009. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0312533942
Descrizione libro Thomas Dunne Books, 2009. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0312533942
Descrizione libro Thomas Dunne Books, 2009. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110312533942
Descrizione libro Thomas Dunne Books. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 0312533942 New Condition. Codice libro della libreria NEW6.0137548