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MAFIA

Messina Denaro: Captured boss’s cousin speaks out against ‘mafia culture’

Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was captured last week, but the mentality that protected him for 30 years is still "rampant" across Sicily, said activist Giuseppe Cimarosa.

Anti-mafia activist Giuseppe Cimarosa
Giuseppe Cimarosa, the son of a former mafioso, is an anti-mafia activist in Matteo Messina Denaro's hometown, Castelvetrano. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As the son of a mafioso turned state witness and a cousin of captured Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro, Giuseppe Cimarosa has seen the Sicilian Mafia and its intimidation tactics up close.

But, while many in Messina Denaro’s hometown of Castelvetrano stayed silent following his arrest last week after 30 years on the run, Cimarosa organised a demonstration against the mafia in front of the mobster’s family home.

“Now the real battle is cultural. Now you have to change people’s mentality,” the 40-year-old riding instructor told AFP at his stables in Castelvetrano, the town in western Sicily where the mob boss was born and reigned with terror.

He added: “Now the enemy is no longer the mafia but the mafia-like behaviour or simply a way of thinking that unfortunately is still rampant.”

“We must start with teaching in schools, and then the state has to support those who, like me, rebel.”

READ ALSO: ‘We don’t talk much here’: Silence grips Sicilian mafia boss hometown

Cimarosa was disappointed that the turnout at last week’s small protest was not higher, but he himself breathed a sigh of relief at Messina Denaro’s arrest.

“The mafia is not as unbeatable as it thought it was,” he said, adding that he felt “a little safer”.

Wall of omertà

Cosa Nostra, immortalised in the Godfather movies, has changed from the ruthless organisation that three decades ago murdered judges and set off deadly car bombs in Italy’s major cities.

Those acts of violence triggered a long crackdown by the state, and experts say the mafia has now been eclipsed by other groups in Italy, notably the ‘Ndrangheta in the southern region of Calabria.

But it was strong enough to keep Messina Denaro protected for 30 years.

READ ALSO: Messina Denaro: How Italy caught ‘most wanted’ mafia boss after 30 years

The culture of ‘omertà’– the protective silence that surrounds the mafia – was evident to journalists covering the aftermath of his arrest, which occurred as he visited a health clinic in Palermo.

“The mafia bases all its strength on fear, and so people are scared of exposing themselves,” Cimarosa said.

“They don’t want to be mixed up in it, they don’t want to risk anything and prefer to turn away – without realising that this is something that affects everybody,” he added. 

His father Lorenzo had married into the Messina Denaro family, marrying the mob boss’s cousin – Cimarosa’s mother – and “helping” them, including “supporting them financially”, Cimarosa said.

But after being arrested, Lorenzo agreed to work with the authorities, and “broke a wall of omertà that until then was very strong”.

Threats

For Cimarosa, his mother and brother, the betrayal – as his father’s collaboration was seen – created a “stigma for me, for my family, that has been difficult to shake off”.

They declined government protection, with Cimarosa insisting he would not give up his identity “because of a criminal whom I neither know nor have ever met”.

“We never received explicit threats. But some things happened that made me think they could be messages,” he said.

“Years ago, I found one of my horses dead… and then shortly after my father’s death his tomb was destroyed twice.”

He admits to thinking “practically every day” about leaving Sicily. “However, I stayed because I believe that this is my mission. Because it would have been too easy to say what I said far away,” he said.

“My words have more value if I say them from Castelvetrano.”

By Gildas Le Roux

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CRIME

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo

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