Gaspare Spatuzza

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Gaspare Spatuzza at his arrest on July 1997.

Gaspare Spatuzza (Palermo, April 8, 1964), is a Sicilian mafioso from the Brancaccio quarter in Palermo. He was a killer for the brothers Filippo and Giuseppe Graviano who headed the Mafia family of Brancaccio. After the arrest of the Gravianos in January 1994, he apparently succeeded them as the regent of the Mafia family.[1] He was arrested in 1997 and started to cooperate with the judicial authorities in 2008. In his testimony he claimed that media tycoon and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi made a deal with the Sicilian Mafia in 1993 that put the country "in the hands" of Cosa Nostra.[2]

Mafia killer

Spatuzza has been convicted of six bomb attacks and 40 homicides.[2] He confessed the murder of the parish priest, father Pino Puglisi, on September 15, 1993. Puglisi was the pastor of San Gaetano’s Parish in the rough Palermo neighbourhood of Brancaccio, and spoke out against the Mafia.[3]

Spatuzza himself was arrested in July 1997. On April 14, 1998, Spatuzza, Nino Mangano, Cosimo Lo Nigro and Luigi Giacalone received life sentences for the killing of father Puglisi. In June 1998, he also received a life sentence in a series of bomb attacks in 1993 in the Via dei Georgofili in Florence, in Via Palestro in Milan and in the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and Via San Teodoro in Rome, which left 10 people dead and 93 injured as well as damage to centres of cultural heritage such as the Uffizi Gallery.[1]

The bomb attacks were part of a campaign of terror in 1993 against the state to get them to back off in their crackdown against the Mafia after the murders of Antimafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992.

Pentito

In October 2008, it became known that he had turned into a witness for the prosecution (pentito) four months earlier after spending 11 years in jail on a strict prison regime.[3] He said had he became religious in prison and, facing "a choice between God and the Cosa Nostra", chose to cooperate and tell the truth.[2]

He admitted he had stolen the Fiat 126 used for the car bomb that killed Borsellino in the Via D’Amelio in Palermo on July 19, 1992. His admission contradicted the declarations of a thug with loose Mafia associations who had confessed to stealing the car. When confronted with Spatuzza’s statement, the thug admitted that he had repeated what some investigating officers had forced him to tell the magistrates. Spatuzza’s detailed testimony stood up against examination.[3] Spatuzza's declaration led to the re-opening of the trial on Borsellino’s murder, which was concluded in 2003.[4]

Dealing with Berlusconi

Spatuzza's boss Giuseppe Graviano told him in 1994 that future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was bargaining with the Mafia, concerning a political-electoral agreement between Cosa Nostra and Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia, in exchange for certain guarantees – such as to stop the bomb terror campaign. Berlusconi entered politics a few months later and won his first term as Prime Minister in 1994. Spatuzza said Graviano disclosed the information to him during a conversation in a bar Graviano owned in the upscale Via Veneto district of the Italian capital Rome. Berlusconi’s right-hand man Marcello Dell'Utri was the intermediary, according to Spatuzza. Dell'Utri has dismissed Spatuzza's allegations as "nonsense".[5]

His assertions back up previous statements of the pentito Antonino Giuffrè, who said that the Graviano brothers were the intermediaries between Cosa Nostra and Berlusconi. Cosa Nostra decided to back Berlusconi's Forza Italia party from its foundation in 1993, in exchange for help in resolving the Mafia's judicial problems. The Mafia turned to Forza Italia when its traditional contacts in the discredited Christian Democrat party proved unable to protect its members from the rigours of the law.[6] "The statements given by Spatuzza about prime minister Berlusconi are baseless and can be in no way verified," according to Berlusconi’s lawyer and MP for the People of Freedom party (Il Popolo della Libertà, PdL), Niccolò Ghedini.[5]

On December 4, 2009, Spatuzza repeated his accusations in court at the appeal hearing against Dell’Utri, sentenced to 9 years in 2004, for collusion with the Mafia.[7] He testified: "Graviano told me the name of Berlusconi and said that thanks to him and the man from our home town [an apparent reference to Dell' Utri] we have the country in our hands." Dell'Utri told the court that neither he nor Berlusconi had Mafia connections. "It's in the interest of the Mafia to force the collapse of the Berlusconi government because this government has done the most in the fight against organised crime." Berlusconi has denounced the claims of Spatuzza as "vile", and "unfounded and defamatory".[8]

On December 11, 2009, Filippo Graviano denied the assertions of Spatuzza before the court of Palermo. He said that he never had met Dell'Utri directly or indirectly.[9][10]

References

  1. ^ a b (in Italian) Cronologia Centro Siciliano di Documentazione "Giuseppe Impastato"
  2. ^ a b c Mob witness links Berlusconi to Mafia bombings, Reuters, December 4, 2009
  3. ^ a b c Police Officers Investigated for Misdirecting Inquiries into Borsellino Killings, Corriere della Sera, July 29, 2009
  4. ^ (in Italian) Si riapre il caso Borsellino, La Stampa, July 14, 2009
  5. ^ a b Lawyer rejects turncoat's claims linking Berlusconi to mafia, Adnkronos International, October 23, 2009
  6. ^ Berlusconi implicated in deal with godfathers, The Guardian, December 5, 2002
  7. ^ Berlusconi's top ally jailed for Mafia link, The Observer, December 12, 2004
  8. ^ Berlusconi 'cut deal with Mafia', court told, The Independent, December 5, 2009
  9. ^ (in Italian) Dell'Utri, Graviano smentisce Spatuzza, La Repubblica, December 11, 2009
  10. ^ Italian Mafia boss Graviano denies Berlusconi link, BBC News, December 11, 2009