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Piero Grasso: Successes of the Italian anti-Mafia chief

Translated Wednesday 5 July 2006, by Carol Gullidge, Hervé Fuyet

Traditionally, the Sicilians have compared the Mafia - Sicily’s invisible network of crime and corruption - to an octopus ("piovra"), as there seems to be nowhere that is beyond the reach of its long arms. Now anti-Mafia chief, Piero Grasso, has succeeded in clipping its tentacles - at least, for the time being...

Piero Grasso: Successes of the Italian anti-Mafia chief.

Within a few weeks, Piero Grasso’s success rate has soared spectacularly. The fall, in April, of Bernardo Provenzano, the “godfather” of Cosa Nostra - the Sicilian Mafia - at the end of forty-three years on the run: Piero Grasso is behind it. The arrest last Tuesday of about fifty people, including the “leaders of 13 Mafia families” from Sicily, in a vast police operation christened “Gotha”: Piero Grasso again. Chief Prosecutor of the national anti-Mafia department, Piero Grasso was undoubtedly the happiest of men, repeatedly mentioning his “tremendous satisfaction” and “his great delight”.

In a way, this is no more than a just reward for this sixty-one-year old Sicilian from Licata, not far from Agrigente, whose career for the last thirty odd years has been devoted to the fight against the Mafia octopus. A magistrate in Palermo, he was a “special” judge at the historical Mafia maxi-trial presided over by Giovanni Falcone in the nineties. He was also member of the parliamentary Commission in charge of Mafia affairs.
It has been said that the rise of Piero Grasso to national level in Italy was “arranged” in 2005 by the Berlusconi government at the expense of the more experienced Gian Carlo Caselli, ex-prosecutor of Palermo, and anti-Mafia icon at that time. This was undoubtedly underestimating Piero Grasso, considered morally “irreproachable”, who preferred to act in the midst of electoral confusion, just as the Italian political majority was changing. The chief of Cosa Nostra was arrested the day after the defeat of Berlusconi, when the left-centre coalition government was still not completely installed. This same prosecutor had caused quite a commotion at a conference of the Communist Refoundation Party, when he suggested (to political parties in general, as a measure of precaution) that they should not nominate election candidates who had been indicted or were subject to investigation. For, in the very peculiar Berlusconian family, some candidates, especially those on the lists of the centre-right parties, were undergoing trial, suspected of, or condemned for, gangsterism.

Starting with Toto Cuffaro, President of the Sicilian region, an ally of Berlusconi and chief candidate of the Union of the Democrats of the Centre (UDC) for the Senate. At the time of his arrest, Provenzano had declared: “You have no idea of the damage you are doing.” This gangster language could mean the end of the “pax mafiosa”. Piero Grasso is familiar with this type of warning, and in spite of his pride at having cut off some of the tentacles of the redoubtable Octopus, he fears that “sooner or later” the gap left by these arrests will be filled.

Bernard Dureau

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