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True crime. Casually done.

Giovanni Brusca: A Mafia Horror Story

Written by Arnaldo Teodorani

INTRO

It’s the evening of the 20th of August 1977.

We are in the main square of a small village, just outside Corleone, province of Palermo, Sicily.

[Corr leh oh neh]

Even if you are not an expert in organised crime, even if you are not a film buff, you should recognise the name. The name of a beautiful town, sadly associated with the heinous acts of few monstrous mobsters.

Two friends are casually strolling through the square, back and forth, as Italians like to do in breezy summer evenings.

One of them, Filippo Costa, is a teacher. He is helping his mate Giuseppe Russo write his memoirs – of which he has plenty.

[Jew Sep Peh Roo sso]

Because Giuseppe has a very peculiar job: he is a Colonel in the Carabinieri, one of Italy’s main police forces.

As such, Colonel Russo has been a constant thorn in the side of the Corleonesi: a most violent ‘family’ quickly rising the ladder of power, under the guidance of Totó Riina.

[Ree nah]

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tot%C3%B2_Riina_il_capo_dei_capi_sorride.jpg

First, Riina was simply known as ‘Shorty’.

Now, he is feared as ‘The Beast’.

Eventually, he shall be revered as ‘The Boss of All Bosses’.

Recently, Russo has been investigating Riina’s involvement in the construction of a local dam. Whenever the State initiates a tender for public construction work, Mafia syndicates are quick to bribe and intimidate their way into gaining a government contract – there is billions to be made.

And if there is something ‘Shorty’ loves is, well, billions.

But there is something he may love even more: the sight of a dead enemy.

As Filippo and Giuseppe pace through the square, a tiny Fiat 128 enters the scene, squeaking under the weight of four heavyset men.

The Colonel is a man used to violence, and maybe he has guessed what is about to happen.

But there is little he can do to react.

The four men climb out of the Fiat, brandishing .38 calibre handguns.

And then, muzzles flash.

Each bullet piercing through Giuseppe and Filippo’s skin tells the same simple message: this is the last time you mess with the Corleonesi.

The four gunmen squeeze their large frames into the Fiat and drive off into the night. One pair of eyes is particularly indifferent, cold, and unflinching.

Those are the eyes of the youngest member of the hit squad. He is barely 20, but this is not the first time he has killed – and he will kill again.

He will rise to become the Corleonesi’s most violent enforcer.

He will rise to become the hideous ‘Swine’ – the ‘People-Slayer’.

MAY YOUR FLESH BURN

Before he was affectionately known as ‘The Swine’ or ‘The Slayer’, the gentleman we just met was called Giovanni Brusca.

[Joe Van Nee Broo Ska]

ROM99:ITALY-MAFIA:AGRIGENTO,SICILY,20MAY96 – UNDATED FILE PHOTO – Italian Police claimed one of their biggest successes in recent years when they arrested top Mafia fugitive Giovanni Brusca (L) and his brother Vincenzo (R) May 20. Giovanni Brusca, 36, is accused of setting off the bomb that killed a leading anti-Mob judge in 1992 and is believed to have succeeded Salvatore “Toto” Riina as the Mafia’s “boss of bosses”. The brothers were arrested at a beach house at Cannitello, near the city of Agrigento in southwestern Sicily. ph/ho REUTERS
Pubblico dominio, https://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2764501

In today’s story we shall focus on some of his most infamous crimes.

But Mafia stories are seldom linear, and they involve a colourful cast of players with very complicated names, relationships and web of interests.

This may be why Mafia trials drag on for years, and prosecutors have a hard time in understanding just what is going on and who has done what.

I apologise from the start if you will experience the same feeling, as I start piling up difficult sounding names onto your short-term memories.

So, let’s start with the first name: Don Bernardo Brusca, a mid-ranking mobster in the Corleone gang, and a close friend of Toto ‘the Beast’ Riina.

On the 20th of February 1957 Bernardo welcomed Giovanni, his first-born son.

Giovanni and his two brothers did not have a typical Mafia upbringing, at least not in their early years. Their parents encouraged them to study hard, to attend church, to work in the fields.

At the same time, dad Bernardo sent some, let’s say, mixed signals.

On one occasion, Giovanni’s much younger brother Enzo had insisted he wanted to dress up as a Coast Guard officer for a costumed party.

He then ran to his father, to show off how dapper he looked in his little uniform.

But Don Bernardo was furious. He tore apart the costume, slapped his son and warned him to never dress up “as a cop” ever again.

As the 1970s begun, and the boys grew older, Don Bernardo continued steering them towards a life of crime.

When Riina ‘The Beast’ launched an all-out war against the ruling ‘families’ in Palermo, Brusca Senior offered him shelter from his rivals’ death squads.

And Giovanni was enrolled as an errand boy, keeping Riina informed and well fed in his hideout.

This role gradually morphed into more sinister assignments: by the age of 19, he had committed his first two homicides.

He shot his second victim outside a movie theatre, in his hometown. After the murder, Brusca went home, hid his weapon, changed his clothes, and returned to the cinema. In his own words:

“ … to enjoy the spectacle of the Carabinieri’s arrival on the crime scene”

This became a sort of trademark of his: returning to the scene to ‘enjoy the spectacle’.

The young Giovanni impressed the Corleone bosses with his criminal qualities. He was a cold, calculating killer, without a drop of empathy nor remorse in his veins. He wasn’t an impulsive murderer, preferring to carefully ponder and plan his actions.

That is why, in 1976, Riina and Don Bernardo decided to make him ‘a made man’: he was to be inducted into ‘the family’.

This happened according to a codified ritual.

Giovanni was invited to a dinner with other mobsters. One by one, they asked him if he was up for killing in the name of Cosa Nostra.

Then, Riina himself asked him to swear allegiance to the family, and pricked his finger with a needle.

Brusca squeezed some drops of his own blood onto a small prayer card, depicting a popular Saint. Riina set the card on fire, and ordered Brusca to hold onto it, as the flames consumed it.

Finally, the ‘Beast’ of Corleone recited the final ritual:

“If you betray Cosa Nostra, may your flesh burn, as this card is now burning”

MAY THEIR FLESH DISSOLVE

Brusca was assigned by Riina to a 12-strong elite hit squad, quickly rising through the ranks.

Between 1977 and 1984, Brusca perpetrated, planned, ordered, or conspired to perpetrate a string of targeted assassinations against rival families, government officials and police officers.

In later life, he admitted he could not quantify the exact number of people who had died because of him.

According to his estimation, his kill count was probably more than 150, but surely less than 200.

Early on, this ‘Slayer of Men’ developed a trademark style.

If a victim was marked for immediate execution, Brusca would lead attacks involving at least three mobsters, unleashing volleys of high calibre pistols against their victims.

But if the mob needed to extract information from their preys … that’s when the ‘Swine’ really got creative. His favourite torture methods were to pull out his victim’s fingernails, and then proceed to break their limbs, one by one.

Whatever the result of the interrogation, there could be only one possible final chapter: the prisoner was strangled with a nylon cord by Brusca, as four associates pinned him or her down on the floor.

The next step was to dispose of the body. In his own words:

“I’ve dissolved bodies in acid, I’ve roasted corpses on big grills; I’ve buried the remains after digging graves with an earthmover”

Brusca’s first notable ‘hit’ was the murder of Colonel Russo, massacred on an August night alongside his biographer friend.

Unfortunately, more lawmen would fall on the line of duty.

The Slayer’s next high-calibre target was magistrate Rocco Chinnici

[Keen Knee Chee]

A fearless prosecutor who had created a ‘Pool’ of crack anti-Mafia magistrates.

Brusca was instrumental in the planning and preparation of the terror-like attack which put an end to Chinnici’s crusade. He and his accomplices stuffed a small Fiat with 75 kg of explosives and parked it outside the magistrate’s house in Palermo.

At 8am, on the 29th of July 1983, the bomb went off, triggered via remote control by another member of Riina’s elite squad.  Mr Chinnici, his two bodyguards and a fourth victim died in the blast.

With Chinnici gone, Brusca and the Corleonesi directed their cold wrath at the most dangerous magistrate in the anti-Mafia ‘Pool’: Giovanni Falcone.

[Joe Van Nee Fal co neh]

A TALE OF TWO GIOVANNIS

Falcone is an apt surname for a hunter of mafiosi, as it can be translated as ‘falcon’ or ‘hawk’.

But in this case, Giovanni ‘the Swine’ saw Giovanni ‘the Falcon’ as his prey – and took personal care of stalking him.

In August of 1983, Brusca found out which café supplied the Palace of Justice. Every morning, a small van would leave the café, bringing coffee and croissants for the magistrates’ breakfast.

Hence, his first proposal: how about we use a similar van, stuff it with TNT and send it crashing against the Palace?

The plan was rejected, as it lacked precision.

Brusca’s next idea was to launch an all-out attack with bazookas against the magistrates’ office.

Also this idea was shot down by his superiors.

Years went by, and Brusca continued to rise in the organisation, destined to supplant his dad Bernardo as a local area boss.

Authorities took notice of this heavy set, ordinary looking, yet ferocious criminal. But they had little evidence to convict him. All they had were the confessions of an ex-boss, turned informant, Tommaso Buscetta.

[Bush ettah]

Based on his allegations, Giovanni ‘The Swine’ was subject to a judiciary measure called ‘compulsory stay’.

Basically, he was confined to a small island, whilst authorities found enough evidence to bring him to trial.

But even from this exile, Giovanni ‘the Swine’ continued plotting the death of Giovanni ‘the Falcon’.

The magistrate was a keen swimmer, so Brusca and his gang considered targeting his favourite swimming pool in Palermo. But the plan was abandoned, as Falcone was protected by a sizeable police escort.

Falcone and his wife also enjoyed swimming in the Mediterranean, and spent holidays in a villa by the sea. Brusca’s men laid a bag full of explosives on the shore, ready to blow up when the magistrate was ready to take a dive.

Luckily, his ‘guardian angels’ spotted the trap on time, and a bomb disposal squad took care of it.

All the while, the mafia-hunter and his colleagues continued dealing deadly blows to Cosa Nostra. As a result of their investigations, 460 bosses and ‘soldiers’ had been arrested and faced the so-called ‘maxi-trial’.

This trial was to be concluded in January of 1992. 346 mafiosi would be convicted to a total of 2665 years in prison!

But even before that sentence, the Corleone gang felt pummelled into a corner by prosecutors.

It was time for them to strike back, and they would do so with unheard ferocity.

SEASON OF TERROR

In 1991 Brusca escaped from his ‘compulsory stay’ and went on the lam.

While ‘underground’ he and the other mob hitmen planned a campaign of terror bombings against institutions.

One of the underbosses, Vincenzo Milazzo,

[Mee Lat-so]

dared to oppose the plan. Too bold, too risky, too ruthless.

He was the first one to pay.

On Riina’s orders, Brusca and five acolytes kidnapped Milazzo, tortured him for days and eventually shot him in the head.

But that wasn’t enough.

The hit squad proceeded to murder Vincenzo’s brother and finally his pregnant girlfriend, 23-year-old Antonella Bonomo.

She implored the killers to have mercy, if not for her, at least for her unborn baby. But Brusca would have none of that and had her strangled.

With internal opposition wiped out, the ‘Slayer’, laid out his tactical plan to erase from existence their most dangerous foe, Giovanni Falcone.

In early 1992, the magistrate had been promoted to a position at the Ministry of Justice in Rome. But every Thursday, he flew back to Palermo for a long weekend.

Brusca studied his movements. The magistrate landed in the Punta Raisi airport, where a police escort would pick him up. They would then drive at speed towards central Palermo, crossing the town of Capaci.

[Cah Pah Chee]

There, a stretch of highway had been laid out over a drainage canal. Brusca saw an opportunity: his squad could pack the canal with explosives and set them off with a remote control.

The Slayer did not leave anything to chance.

He procured 335 Kg of Semtex and TNT and divided them into 13 barrels. He then tested the remote control, by setting off old photography flash bulbs as stand-ins for the bombs.

He realised that there was a slight delay between him flicking the switch on the remote and the flashes going off. So, based on the average speed at which the escort travelled, he calculated the exact time at which to activate the explosive device.

His men took care of laying out a ‘marker’ of sorts: they placed a fridge by the main road, at the right distance from the mined stretch of road. When the first car of the motorcade drove by the fridge, Brusca would flick the switch, ensuring the explosion happened right under the magistrate’s car.

On the 23rd of May 1992, Falcone landed at Punta Raisi. A mafioso staking the airport alerted Brusca via radio: the magistrate and his wife had been picked up by the escort and were on their way.

Brusca and his accomplice Nino Gioé

[Nee noh Jo-eh]

were standing on a hill just outside Capaci. When the magistrate’s car drove by the fridge, Gioé shouted

‘Go!’

But Brusca, for once in his life, hesitated.

The cars were driving slower than usual.

Gioé shouted again:

‘Go!’

Only at the third ‘Go!’, Brusca flicked the switch.

The 13 barrels filled with explosives detonated one after the other, releasing a rolling wave of deafening thunder, flames, smoke and debris.

Pulverized asphalt, car wreckage and body parts were lifted in the sky and then fell again like toxic hail, over the crater where the road had once been.

Brusca himself later admitted being shocked by the violence of the deflagration.

He told Gioé:

“What happened? What the f*ck have I done?”

Let me tell you what the f*ck he had done:

The first car of the convoy, carrying three officers, was flung tens of metres away into an olive grove. All three died on the spot.

The second car, carrying Falcone and his wife Francesca, smashed against a wall of asphalt that had been lifted by the blast.

Both passengers were violently ejected through the windshield and suffered massive internal injuries. The magistrate and his wife survived the impact, but only for a few hours. They both succumbed to internal bleeding that very evening.

When they heard the news, Brusca, Riina and other under-bosses uncorked bottles of champagne to celebrate their victory.

The spearhead of the State’s struggle against the Mafia had been slain in a ruthless terror attack.

But Falcone was not alone. His close associate, magistrate Paolo Borsellino was as dangerous to the mob. And he, too, was soon to die.

Another blast, another massacre took place in Palermo, on the 19th of July 1992.

Borsellino and five of his bodyguards lost their lives.

On that occasion, Brusca had not participated directly, but he later claimed responsibility for giving the order.

CAPACI (PA) 23.05.1992 – STRAGE DI CAPACI: MUORE IL GIUDICE GIOVANNI FALCONE CON LA MOGLIE FRANCESCA MORVILLO E TRE UOMINI DELLA SCORTA. © LANNINO & NACCARI / STUDIO CAMERA
Di non dichiarato – http://www.ansa.it/legalita/rubriche/cronaca/2015/05/22/strage-di-capaci-falcone_cf2b4939-b546-429c-8ff4-c2990cd9b0fd.html?idPhoto=2, Pubblico dominio, https://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5462891

A LOSING WAR

Riina, Brusca and friends continued to litter the beautiful island of Sicily with more high-ranking corpses.

Traditionally, some members of the political elite and senior civil servants had been faithful allies to Cosa Nostra.

But as the tide was turning against the mob, these friends in high places could not help them avoid jail time any longer.

It was time to exact punishment for their ineptitude.

Brusca personally led the hit squad which had to ‘whack’ one Ignazio Salvo.

Mr Salvo was the deputy boss of a small ‘family’ in Western Sicily, but he was also a prominent Government supplier: he ran a company contracted with collecting 40% of all taxes in Sicily.

As such, he held leverage and influence over local Government – but he had been unable or unwilling to protect his mafia associates.

In the late evening of the 17th of September 1992, Salvo had just driven back to his seaside villa, just outside Palermo.

The grounds were well protected by gates, fences and walls.

What Salvo had not accounted for, though, was an attack from the sea.

Brusca, right-hand man Gioé and a third hitman reached the villa by motorboat. Silently, they  made their way to the gardens, and lay in ambush.

As soon as Salvo climbed out of his white Mercedes, the trio opened fire with semiautomatic pistols and a rifle.

Brusca and his boss Toto Riina may have been winning some battles, but it was clear that they were losing the war. Riina was a brutal ruler, who exacted extreme measures not only against the State and the public – but especially against his own underlings.

Fearing death at the hands of ‘The Beast’, many had agreed to collaborate with police forces, turning informants.

One of the most ‘talkative’ ones was one Di Maggio

[Dee Maj-joe]

It was thanks to intelligence he provided, that a crack team of Carabinieri arrested Totó Riina, the ‘Beast’, the ‘Boss of Bosses’, on the 15th of January 1993.

Another key informant was Santino Di Matteo

[Sun tee noh Dee Mat teh oh]

His confessions helped magistrates build a case against those who had murdered their colleague Falcone.

These were devastating blows against what was left of the Corleonesi.

Brusca felt hounded, wounded.

Most of all, humiliated.

Both informants belonged to his territory, to his ‘family’. They were, in theory, under his command.

And yet they had defected so blatantly to the enemy.

This was an affront that the Swine could not tolerate.

His wrath was particularly directed at Di Matteo: that blabbermouth knew too much about Brusca’s operations, his organisation, and his dozens of murders.

The Swine could not slay Di Matteo directly, he was too well protected.

But he had other means to silence him.

Di Alessandro Fucarini – (EN) Chris Quinn, Notorious hit men through the years, su mysanantonio.com, 9 settembre 2016., Pubblico dominio, https://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6527155

THE PUPPY

The 23rd of November 1993 started just like any other day at riding school for 13-year-old Giuseppe.

[Jew Sep Peh]

At his age, he was already a proficient equestrian, and a promising show jumper. It looked like he could make a career out of horse-riding. Perhaps, compete in the Olympics one day!

Show jumping came with some risks of course: bad falls could break bones.

But Giuseppe knew it was a healthier career choice than the traditional family business.

A business which came with many risks: for example, Giuseppe’s father Santino Di Matteo had to live under tight police custody, lest he got a bullet to his brain.

The 23rd of November 1993 did NOT end like any other day at riding school for Giuseppe.

A group of policemen showed up on two unmarked cars, flashing lights on. They introduced themselves as officers of the witness protection service. They were there to pick up Giuseppe, and escort him to a safe location to meet with his dad Santino.

Giuseppe could not wait to hug his father after so many months, and eagerly followed them.

The young, trusting boy could not imagine that those officers were Brusca’s men in disguise.

It was the beginning of a two-year ordeal, during which the Di Matteo boy was held prisoner by the Swine.

His plan was simple: pressure Santino Di Matteo into silence. If he wanted to see his son alive, he had to stop collaborating with authorities.

But the ransom did not work as intended. Quite the opposite.

Di Matteo was not cowed and continued to provide invaluable intelligence to prosecutors.

Thanks to his testimony, the magistrature was able to issue a life sentence – in absentia of course – to Giovanni Brusca, for the murder of Salvo, the tax collector.

When the Swine heard the news, he slammed his fist on the table and shouted to an underling:

“Fine! Get rid of the puppy!”

Brusca gave the order on the 16th of January 1996, to be executed by his younger brother Enzo and two more assassins.

I will leave it to one of them to describe how the puppy was put down:

“I told the boy to stand in a corner (…) hands in the air and face towards the wall (…) I stood behind him and run a rope across his neck. Yanking sharply at the rope, I pulled him backwards and then threw him onto the floor.

(…)

The boy did not understand what was going on, because he didn’t expect it (…) I don’t think he understood that he was dying.

(…)

I then undressed the boy, and I realised that he had released himself, I could not tell if this was out of fear, or it was a natural reaction.

After we had undressed him completely (…) we poured the acid into a drum, and we lifted the boy (…) we placed him into the acid and then we went upstairs.

Later, I returned downstairs to check (…) I stirred the acid and saw that only a piece of leg and part of the boy’s back were left in the drum (…) but I didn’t stay there for long, because the stench of the acid (…) was suffocating in there.

Then, we all went to sleep”

They all went to sleep.

After an honest day’s work, they had to recharge from all that stress and exhaustion.

So, they all went to sleep.

A few metres below their pillows, Giuseppe’s remains – a piece of leg and part of the back – drifted inside a drum full of acid.

These were the so-called ‘men of honour’, sometimes revered or even portrayed sympathetically in popular culture as some sort of folk heroes.

It was in crimes such as this one that mafiosi revealed their true face: little more than psychotic killers driven by half-assed business strategies; no better than war criminals with an accountant on the side.

On the Swine’s orders, they had abducted ‘the puppy’ with a vile lie. They had strangled him. And finally, they had got rid of his body in the most definitive, irreversible way: his bone and tissue dissolved in acid, down to the molecular level.

This was the final affront to Santino Di Matteo, the traitor, and to his entire family.

The ‘Swine’s herd’ had denied the Di Matteos the dignity of recovering a body that they could mourn.

TO CATCH A SWINE

Since Brusca’s escape from his compulsory stay he had been in the crosshairs of police Inspector Sanfilippo, head of the ‘fugitive squad’.

On the 12th of January 1996, the squad had followed an informant’s tip and raided a house belonging to Brusca. He wasn’t there, but they found a photo of his 5-year-old son, Davide.

The following month, two of the thugs that had strangled and dissolved Giuseppe, the ‘Puppy’, were arrested, and decided to collaborate with Inspector Sanfilippo.

One of them revealed that

‘When Brusca’s a** is on fire, he runs to Agrigento’.

Meaning: when Brusca needs to disappear, he hides around the Agrigento province, on Sicily’s southern coast.

Another informant advised the cops to shadow a duo of drug-dealing brothers in that area. By wiretapping them, Sanfilippo found they often called a number which belonged to a 90-year old lady.

Not only she lived in Brusca’s hometown, but it turned out she owned two state-of-the-art mobile phones.

Weird enough to warrant further investigation.

It turned out that those phones were actually used by her grandson, a butcher.

And every night at 8pm, the butcher called another mobile, located around Cannatello, just south of Agrigento.

Further wiretaps revealed that the butcher was ringing another butcher – of a different kind: it was Giovanni Brusca.

Sanfilippo sent six plainclothes officers to scout the area for weeks. Finally, in May, one of them spotted a familiar looking kid: it was Davide, Brusca’s son.

The little boy was seen walking inside a small villa. Was the Swine living there? How could Sanfilippo be certain?

One of his deputies came up with a brilliant plan.

They knew that every day at 8pm, Brusca was due to receive a call from his butcher friend. A call that the cops would be listening to.

So, around that time, an officer would be sent riding a motorcycle outside the villa.

The bike had a faulty muffler, to make extra noise.

If Sanfilippo’s squad could hear the motorcycle noise in their 8pm wiretap … bingo! It meant that Brusca was actually inside the villa!

So, on the evening of the 20th of May 1996, a cop and his de-muffled bike set out on their mission.

That night, the butcher was late, and he rung Brusca only at 9pm. But the plan worked nonetheless! Sanfilippo’s men heard the loud motor through their headphones.

It was a go!

Inside the villa, also Brusca heard the din of the bike’s exhaust. It may have been his criminal experience, or an extreme case of precognition, but he immediately understood something was afoot. He hung up the phone and told his brother Enzo, standing next to him:

“We are done for!”

Indeed.

A few seconds later, Sanfilippo and his 15-strong squad stormed the house. The Inspector was the first to break in, preceded by a hail of stun grenades. His officers followed, pump-action shotguns levelled at the Swine and his brother.

The Slayer of Men was caught completely off-guard and unarmed. The squad was quickly upon him, slammed him to the ground and cuffed his hands behind his back. As the police searched the house, Sanfilippo noticed a curious detail.

The TV was on.

Brusca and his family were watching a movie.

And not just any movie.

It was a 1993 biopic called ‘Giovanni Falcone’.

THE UNTHINKABLE

Giovanni Brusca was rushed to the Palermo police headquarters, a tense two-hour car trip which tested the patience of Inspector Sanfilippo. Not because he feared ambushes or retaliation from Brusca’s men. But because he had a hard time in keeping his own men at bay. Many of them had been friends with policemen killed by Brusca.

To put it simply, they just wanted to beat the living crap out of him.

According to Brusca’s later declarations, he did suffer mistreatment when they reached the HQ. The keys to his handcuffs went ‘mysteriously’ missing. To free his wrists, Sanfilippo had to call in the fire brigade, which used an electric belt sander to remove the shackles. The procedure left Brusca with two large scars on his forearms.

Brusca also claimed that after this incident, a young officer walked up to him. He was a relative to one of the bodyguards slain in the highway bombing.

The officer grabbed a large, framed photograph of magistrates Falcone and Borsellino and then smashed it on Brusca’s face.

This series of affronts may have warranted a ruthless revenge from the Slayer and his underlings.

But Brusca recognised when he had ben defeated. He was doomed to be ‘buried under a multitude of life-sentences’, to use Sanfilippo’s words. All of them to be served in solitary confinement.

Unless …

Unless he did the unthinkable.

Unless he accepted to cooperate with the authorities and become what he hated the most in the world: an informant.

Initially, he sought to play the system. He provided false information, contradicting depositions by other informants to undermine their credibility. Or, when providing accurate intelligence, it was to get rid of rival ‘family’ members.

The magistrates soon uncovered his dirty tricks and issued a warrant for slander against the Swine.

This set off the second phase of his informant career. Brusca appeared to sincerely repent for his criminal past – or at least so he claimed.

In any case, his later statements proved accurate and helped police forces conduct hundreds of arrests.

Brusca’s cooperation, of course, came at a price, which the State agreed to pay: his sentence was reduced from life to 30 years.

Considering that he was responsible for the death of at least 150 people, that makes 2.4 months in jail per each murder.

Over the years, the former Slayer proved to be a model prisoner, earning a further four-year discount on his sentence.

Remember when he was arrested? It was 1996. Plus 26 years, well, you do the maths …

Organised crime buffs among you may know already what comes next.

On the 31st of May 2021, Giovanni Brusca, the Swine, the Slayer, was released on parole from his prison in Rome.

He will have to report to a police station every week for the next four years, and he will likely have to live in hiding, under witness protection for the rest of his life.

But he is otherwise free.

This event was controversial to say the least. One of the rare occasions in which political parties from both sides of the spectrum agreed on something: the fact that someone like Brusca should not be allowed to walk free.

Relatives of his victims were of the same opinion.

But Mr De Raho, Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, defended this ruling. As he declared to Reuters:

“Regardless of what one may think of the atrocities he committed at the time, there was a collaboration … Let us not forget that he gave information on bombings both in Sicily and in mainland Italy”

Rationally, I can understand how the prosecutors’ strategy of allowing some leniency to informants makes sense. It has paid off in the past, against both organised crime and terrorism.

And yet, it’s hard not to empathise with the grief and outrage of the victims’ relatives.

I would be keen to hear our viewers’ opinion on the matter: should promises to informants be kept, as a necessary evil in the endless struggle against crime?

Or shouldn’t any mercy be granted to those who have killed, and killed again, so often and so brutally?

DISMEMBERED APPENDIX

Brusca’s confessions unveiled a can of worms concerning alleged negotiations between the Mafia and the State. Shortly before the assassination of magistrate Falcone, Riina and the Corleonesi initiated secret talks with the Government and the secret services. Their aim was to obtain impunity for the top echelons of Cosa Nostra. In exchange, the mob would refrain from launching a war against the institutions.

Allegedly, they even involved the Minister of the Interior of the time – who denied any talks ever took place.

The case remains murky to this day.

And in any case, even if negotiations took place, they led nowhere. As we know, Brusca and friends proceeded to slaughter two magistrates and their escorts.

Furthermore, Brusca was part of a criminal committee which ordered the planting of bombs in tourist hotspots in Florence, Rome and Milan, claiming 10 dead and 82 wounded.

During one of those committee meetings Brusca even suggested unloading thousands of HIV-infected syringes onto Italy’s most frequented beaches.

The worst possible massacre was avoided by total chance.

In January 1994 the Corleonesi planted a car packed with explosives and metal shrapnel, right outside Rome’s main football stadium.

The bomb was due to go off on Sunday afternoon, after a match. Right when the spectators were filing out, and when anti-riot police squads were taking position.

It would have been a slaughter of unseen magnitude.

For some sort of miracle, the remote control malfunctioned, and the bomb didn’t go off.

But it proved just how far these psychopaths were willing to go, in their last-ditch efforts to strike back at a State that refused to be cowed.

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