World The return of the New York mafia “sponsors” in...

The return of the New York mafia “sponsors” in Sicily

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Settimino Mineo (C), jeweler and new head of the Sicilian mafia, is escorted by carabinieri as he exits a police station after his arrest, in Palermo on December 4, 2018. - Italian police have arrested new Mafia boss Settimino Mineo and dozens of other suspects in a major swoop, officials and media said on December 4. Police arrested jeweler Mineo, 80, and 45 others in Sicily just before he was due to be officially anointed at a reconvened Mafia Commission or Cupola, the police said. (Photo by Alessandro FUCARINI / AFP)

ALESSANDRO FUCARINI / AFP

By Thomas Saintourens

Posted today at 12:57 am

It was a hot day in August 2018 on the Gulf of Mondello, the most popular of Palermo's berries. A large inflatable dinghy among the vacationers, a few armies from the shore. On board, five men in swimming shorts.

You would think they were ordinary tourists, enjoying the Sicilian sun. In reality, these somewhat paunchy acolytes are discussing business. There is Giuseppe Spatola, Thomas Gambino, Christian Calogero Zito, Benedetto Gabriele Militello and Tommaso Inzerillo. Police say five "bosses" from America have come together to discuss their criminal activities and their takeover at the top of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia.

Mafia leaders Francesco Inzerillo (left) and Salvatore Gambino, arrested in connection with the Italian-American operation "New Connection" on July 17, 2019.
Mafia leaders Francesco Inzerillo (left) and Salvatore Gambino, arrested as part of the Italian-American operation "New Connection" on July 17, 2019. ALESSANDRO FUCARINI / AFP

The serenity they display in this summer of 2018 would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. There was, in fact, a time, not so long ago, when they could not have set foot in Palermo, their homeland, without being liquidated by rival clans.

This time, only the police are there, in hiding: their seaside meeting is immortalized on telephoto by the Sicilian anti-Mafia. For the investigators, the issue is historic: it is a question of blocking the return to the country of the most powerful Italian-American families, these dynasties of which Hollywood has made so many films …

“This return demonstrates the extremely high resilience of Cosa Nostra. We’re talking about a 150-year-old dynastic organization that has always risen. ”
Salvatore De Luca, Deputy Prosecutor in Palermo

A year later, still in the summer, these same protagonists have lost their luster. On July 17, 2019, handcuffs on their wrists, the mine wasted, they were taken on board by Palermo police and FBI agents. A resounding search, the culmination of an operation called "New Connection". The spinning on Mondello beach was only a preliminary stage of a hunt so vast that it is still underway six months later.

The 1,068 pages of the Palermo anti-Mafia prosecution's accusation file, including The world has read, sketch a scenario that one would imagine willingly brought to the screen, too, by Scorsese or Coppola.

Over the phone tapping and the confessions of the repentants, the investigation reveals a litany of tragedies, betrayals and revenges. She tells how these men, "losers" who once fled Palermo to America, return, thirty years later, to the death of their worst enemy, to rule, with their pockets full, over the neighborhoods of their childhood.

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