February 3, 1942 |
Corleone, Sicily, Italy
* Mafia Association
* Multiple murder
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment
( multiple life sentences related to different homicides and mass murders )
|Criminal status||Imprisoned since 1995|
|Conviction(s)||Mafia Association, Multiple murder|
Leoluca Bagarella (born February 3, 1942, Corleone) is an Italian criminal and member of the Sicilian Mafia. He is from the town of Corleone. Following Salvatore Riina's arrest in early 1993, Bagarella is believed to have taken over a section of the Corleonesi, rivalling Riina's putative successor, Bernardo Provenzano. On June 24, 1995, Bagarella was arrested, having been a fugitive for four years.
Bagarella sided with Luciano Leggio in the late 1950s. Bagarella became the brother-in-law of Salvatore Riina in 1974. Bagarella was an important boss of the Corleonesi and trusted by Riina who had become overlord of the Sicilian Mafia.
Bagarella killed police chief Boris Giuliano as well as a nephew of Tommaso Buscetta, one of many of Buscetta's relatives to die since he betrayed the Mafia. Two of Bagarella's brothers were also Mafiosi; his elder brother, Calogero Bagarella, was shot dead on December 10, 1969, in the Viale Lazio in Palermo, during a shootout with rival mafioso Michele Cavataio and his men, known as the Viale Lazio massacre. A second brother, Giuseppe, was murdered in prison in 1972. Bagarella's own wife, Vincenza Marchese, was the sister of Giuseppe Marchese and the niece of Filippo Marchese, a notorious killer and high-ranking member of the Corleonesi.
Personality and marriage
Tommaso Buscetta, a Mafia boss who turned state witness, knew Bagarella in prison back in the 1970s and had the following to say about Bagarella: "I prefer not to speak about him, I think he doesn't belong to the human species...in prison everybody feared him. I remember we stayed three months together in the prison infirmary and the only words he told me were good morning and good evening." Buscetta said Bagarella had mental problems and has been involved in possibly 300 murders.
Bagarella married Vincenza Marchese in 1991. She later committed suicide after Giuseppe Marchese began collaborating with authorities. Another version was that she was clinically depressed, after a series of miscarriages. She allegedly also was shocked by the killing of the 13-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo in January 1996 in retaliation for the "betrayal" of his father Santo Di Matteo who had turned state witness after his arrest on June 4, 1993. The body of the little Giuseppe was dissolved in acid. Vincenza Marchese’s body has never been found.
Murder of Giovanni Falcone
Riina's reign as "boss of bosses" suffered a severe setback when hundreds of mafioso were found guilty at the Maxi Trial in 1986-1987. Bagarella, who was involved in many murders including that of the head of Palermo's Flying Squad Boris Giuliano, became a wanted man. Once the convictions were upheld by higher courts, Riina ordered the murder of high-profile prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, a decision that was taken over an objection by Ignazio Salvo, who had argued Falcone was best neutralized through political machinations.
Giovanni Brusca was tasked with the killing, and a bomb was placed under the motorway Falcone would take from the airport when arriving from Rome. Bagarella assisted at the scene during preparations. Falcone died in the bomb attack on May 23, 1992, along with his wife and three policemen. 57 days later, his colleague Paolo Borsellino died in another bombing, along with five police bodyguards. The state came under intense political pressure because of its failure to protect Falcone and Borsellino. Vito Ciancimino, who knew Riina's lieutenant Bernardo Provenzano, was contacted by emissaries claiming to represent the government; the content of the negotiations has been disputed. Riina's strategy seemed to be bearing fruit, but Ciancimino and Provenzano thought Riina's demands were unrealistic, and no concessions were in fact obtained.
The murders of Falcone and Borsellino proved highly counterproductive for Riina, as they resulted in the passage of new laws that offered incentives for mafia members to collaborate with the police. On January 15, 1993, Riina was caught after decades as a fugitive. On May 14, television host Maurizio Costanzo, who had expressed delight at the arrest of Riina, was almost killed in an bomb attack in a Rome street, in which 23 people were injured. Following Riina's arrest in early 1993, Bagarella is believed to have taken over a section of the Corleonesi, rivalling Riina's putative successor, Bernardo Provenzano.
The explosion was part of a series of terrorist attacks, on May 27, 1993 a bomb under the Torre dei Pulci killed five people: Fabrizio Nencioni, wife Angelamaria; their daughters; 9-year-old Nadia and two-month-old Caterina, and Dario Capolicchio, aged 20. 33 people were injured. Attacks on art galleries and churches left 10 dead with many injured, and caused outrage among Italians. At least one high ranking investigator believed most of those who carried out murders for Cosa Nostra answered solely to Bagarella, and that consequently Bagarella actually welded more power than Bernardo Provenzano who was Riina's formal successor.
Provenzano protested about the terrorist attacks, but Bagarella responded sarcastically, telling him to wear a sign saying "I don't have anything to do with the massacres". Bagarella stopped ordering murders some time before his own capture, apparently due to the suicide of his wife. She had become depressed about her inability to have children, believing it to be a punishment for the kidnapping and murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo.
Arrest and conviction
In 2002 he protested about his treatment under a new law that placed heavy restrictions on jailed Mafia bosses to prevent them from running their criminal empires from behind bars. At a court appearance that June, Bagarella made some thinly veiled threats to the Italian government, saying the Mafia is "tired of being exploited, humiliated, oppressed and used like goods exchanged among the various political forces." Some interpreted this as a sign the Mafia was annoyed that its previously cozy relationship with politicians had broken down, speculating about Mafia bosses having been in some sort of clandestine negotiations with politicians.
- Reputed Head of the Mafia Is Arrested in Palermo Chase, The New York Times, June 26, 1995
- Mafia Boss Provenzano Accused of 1969 Palermo Murders, Bloomberg, November 29, 2007
- Servadio, Mafioso, p. 228-30
- Follain, Vendetta, pp. 244-5
- Longrigg, Mafia Women, p. 122
- (in Italian) Il femminile in Cosa Nostra, Francesco Flocca & Serena Giunta, Psychomedia, September 5, 2003
- The massacre in via dei Georgofili, The Florentine, May 24, 2012
- Follain, Vendetta, p. ?
- Follain, Vendetta, pp. 230-231
- Are Mob Hits Bad for Business? Time Magazine Europe, September 30, 2002
- Mafiosi given 'soft jail time' by Berlusconi, The Observer, July 25, 2004
- Dickie, Cosa Nostra, pp. 441-42
- Dickie, John (2004). Cosa Nostra. A history of the Sicilian Mafia, London: Coronet, ISBN 0-340-82435-2
- Follain, John (2012). Vendetta: The Mafia, Judge Falcone and the Quest for Justice, London: Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-1-444-71411-1
- Jamieson, Alison (1999). The Antimafia: Italy’s fight against organized crime, London: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-80158-X
- Longrigg, Clare (1998). Mafia Women, London: Vintage ISBN 0-09-959171-5
- Servadio, Gaia (1976), Mafioso. A history of the Mafia from its origins to the present day, London: Secker & Warburg ISBN 0-436-44700-2