SICILY, ITALY. Patience’s award…and justice 22 years later. On November 19, 2014, four members of the Sicilian Mafia were sentenced to between twelve years and life in prison for their part in the notorious 1992 assassination of prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Falcone, also a magistrate, and three police escorts. Ex Mafia leader Gaspare Spatuzza was sentenced to only twelve years in jail,as he became the police’s informant. Giuseppe Barranca and Cristoforo Cannella were sentenced to life in prison while Cosimo D’Amato received 30 years in jail. Giovanni Brusca, who detonated the bomb device hidden under the highway between Palermo and the airport on May 23, 1992, is serving a life sentence that started in 1996. Leoluca Bagarella is imprisoned for life since 1995 for assisting at the murder scene during its preparation.
Apart from Falcone, the list of murdered Italian magistrates is long. Two months after Giovanni Falcone was murdered, another colleague, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by a car bomb in July 1992 in front of his mother’s apartment. Both magistrates’ assassinations were ordered by Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the Cosa Nostra leader captured in 1993. Now 84 years old, the “boss of bosses” is currently serving multiple life sentences in a maximum security prison.
The Sicilian Mafia’s opponent Giovanni Falcone started his career as district magistrate and moved to penal law in 1980. At that time, the chief of the Prosecution Office in Palermo, Rocco Chinnici, appointed Falcone to investigate the heroin traffic case of the Spatola-Inzerillo-Gambino Mafioso clan. Falcone introduced a new investigation line by seizing bank records to trace “the money trail” from every bank in Palermo – as task he completed all by himself, without any computer to process data. A few years later, this stage of investigation led to the Maxi Trial against the Sicilian Mafia. Giovanni Falcone led the prosecution for the famous trial, which began in February 1986 and finished in December 1987.
Falcone’s effort against the Mafia was a success: 360 Cosa Nostra members were convicted of serious crimes from a total of 474 charged Mafiosi. His great achievements worked hand in hand with high risks of losing his life. Previous assassination attacks on Falcone eventually led him to work in a windowless, bombproof bunker, instead of a classic office. His home was protected as well, and a convoy of armored police cars served as his escorts.
But despite his impressive work Falcone was never awarded the chief prosecutor position in Palermo. His promotion was denied, but his fight against Mafia was far from an end. Thus in March 1991, Giovanni Falcone accepted to be Rome-based Director-General of Criminal Investigation Office at the Italian Ministry of Justice. Once installed, he established the Martelli decree with new measures and immediate results against Cosa Nostra and organized national and district offices to fight against the Mafia – just to name a few of his actions, which have terrified Mafia even more.
Now, we ask: how does the Falcone family see the most recent sentences in the murder of Giovanni’s case? What is the Mafia’s impact on their lives and Italian society?
In an exclusive interview, ROOSTERGNN has followed up on these issues with Maria Falcone, the sister of the magistrate and the President of the Giovanni and Francesca Falcone Foundation.
Note: the original interview was conducted in Italian, and ROOSTERGNN is offering a translation.
Do you think justice has been done in the murder of your brother Giovanni Falcone?
Maria Falcone: If we consider the gunpoint of Cosa Nostra, I think that justice has been done. Surely Cosa Nostra wanted Giovanni to die, and we can say, as revealed through all these years by the various justice collaborators, it was the Mafia who organized the attack and who ran it directly. I do not know if there were others outside Cosa Nostra who might have had a certain interest in killing Giovanni and the judges have not given an answer to this yet. I believe that true justice will be done when veils and doubts about Capaci’s death and massacre will no longer exist.
After one Mafia attempt to kill him in 1989, your brother said to his colleague Liliana Ferraro: “My life is mapped out. It is my destiny to take a bullet by the Mafia some day. The only thing I don’t know is when…” Did he place greater value on his work than his life?
Maria Falcone: He surely did, Giovanni had such a sense of the state and such a professional code of ethics that required him to work and to do his duty at any cost. This was stated during an interview, when asked if he was afraid. He said: “the important thing is not whether you are afraid or not, but not to be influenced by fear, otherwise it would be unconsciousness.”
Do you think that the Mafia attack against Giovanni Falcone was extremely difficult to defeat or that his assassination could have been prevented by stronger security measures, such as a closer look at the A29 highway status (where Falcone was murdered)?
Maria Falcone: I think it was impossible to predict the attack, exactly because of the way it was organized. Perhaps the work of security guards, responsible for protection, could have avoided the problem by diversifying its routes, or, for example, by landing [Falcone’s] plane at the military airport of Bocca di Falco. I believe that the strategy taken by security guards was not a typical one, even though it was almost impossible to predict the attack. Closing the highway would not have been a viable option.
What was the private life of the number one Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor like?
Maria Falcone: Giovanni was a man with many cultural interests, from music to cinema or reading. He could have his moments of relaxation even though it was a kind of “special surveillance”; he often went to my house and spent time with his family or visiting friends and on those occasions he could enjoy some moments of pause. Definitely what gave him most pleasure was to listen to a lot of music.
How has the face of the Italian Mafia changed from the early 90’s?
Maria Falcone: Despite the internal changes, the Mafia is still the same, still present. Despite the fact that the top of the organization has been decimated, what has changed over time is the organizational chart, the distribution of various mafias of southern Italy, so if it is true that Nostra has weakened over the years, the Ndrangheta [Calabrian Mafia] has greatly strengthened.
Have Italy’s society and its legal system changed sufficiently in order to form a strong offensive against the Mafia? Is today’s system an effective one?
Maria Falcone: It surely is. After the massacres of Capaci and Via D’Amelio, the Sicilian and Italian companies have claimed that there was more attention from the state, a stronger repression. The cultural revolution of the Sicilians and the citizens’ desire for change has resulted in marches and demonstrations of all kinds. I feel I can say that there has been a repression by the state, as demonstrated by the arrests of most of the fugitives who are now in prison, the constant attention to the processes still ongoing, and the continuing commitment to the surveillance and protection of magistrates.
You keep alive memories of your brother and his wife through the Giovanni and Francesca Falcone Foundation. Would you like to give us some details about the programs and scholarships offered by your organization in the fight against the Mafia?
Maria Falcone: Giovanni often said that the Mafia is also a cultural thing and that is why it is not enough to defeat the only repression of the police and magistrates; you need a change of the society, creating a diverse one, which discards the attitudes and negative values of the Mafia, as well as society’s indifference and silence. Giovanni gave great importance to the education of young people, and firmly believed in the essential values of democracy and trusted in the possibility of a generational leap that would cut the Mafia’s ability to have the control of the territory. It is precisely for this reason that the Giovanni and Francesca Falcone Foundation chose to devote most of its activities in schools, through the implementation of projects of educational law, which serve to create in young people a sense of the state, love for justice and for freedom. The Foundation is also involved in organizing conferences and debates on topics related to the fight against the Mafia. Since 1994, it has promoted the award of scholarships for young graduates aimed at research-study on organized crime.
In the past year, The European Commission has called one of its meeting rooms “Falcone-Borsellino” and the FBI has dedicated a Gallery to Giovanni Falcone. How did you feel when you received the FBI memorial plaque?
Maria Falcone: Surely the worldwide recognition of the importance of Giovanni’s ideas and life is his great redemption. He was the first to point out that the Mafia was not a phenomenon limited to the region of Sicily, southern Italy or Italy in general, but that, on the contrary, it was a transnational fact. Precisely for this reason he did engage, and was the first in this, to create links with the US, Germany, South America. Everybody has recognized the value and importance of his anti-crime activities, even after his death. The Palermo Convention of 2000 is one example, and the activities were part of the United Nations, in the clash with the Mafia organizations confirm and legitimate Giovanni’s idea of a phenomenon that definitely crosses the Italian boundaries.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once,” as Giovanni Falcone liked to quote William Shakespeare. Do you agree that what remains behind is life’s best “revenge”?
Maria Falcone: His memory lives on everywhere, even outside of Italy, because his ideas were fundamental in the battle against the Mafia.
Tributes to Giovanni Falcone include:
- The European Commission re-named one of its meeting rooms “Falcone-Borsellino”
- The FBI constructed a Giovanni Falcone Gallery
- Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for Civil Valor
- Palermo International Airport has been named Falcone-Borsellino Airport
- One square in Palermo has been called Piazza Falcone-Borsellino
- Palermo-based sculpture artist Tommaso Domina created statues of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
Media mentions & cultural appearances
- On November 13, 2006, Time Magazine named Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino “Heroes of the last 60 years”
- Biographical Giovanni Falcone film by Giuseppe Ferrara, 1993
- Documentary Inside the Mafia by National Geographic TV channel, 2005
- Excellent Cadavers film by HBO, 1998
- Two-episode TV movie by RAI, 2006
- The Best of Youth film by Marco Tullio Giordana, 2003
- Capo dei Capi film, by Mediaset TV, 2007
Both Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino studied law at the University of Palermo. Giovanni Falcone was born on May 18, 1939, and Paolo Borsellino on January 19, 1940, in Palermo, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo in Italy.
“You did not kill them: their ideas walk on our legs,”as banners of 1992 protesters still say.