Back in February, and after some intriguing claims by a mafia-turncoat, and the son of the late Mayor of Palermo – whose father had faced allegations of collusion with the mafia, I considered whether Silvio Berlusconi’s former party, Forza Italia, might have been the product of mafia manipulation.
Now, there is further, albeit, indirect evidence that this might have been the case. Several things have caught my ear since I wrote Part 1 of this speculative little piece. Massimo Ciancimino, the late Mayor of Palermo’s son, recently claimed that Silvio Berlusconi was one of the greatest victims of the mafia. Prior to this rather eye-brow raising comment, Ciancimino had claimed that people close to Berlusconi had been negotiating with the mafia. The outcome of these negotiations was, apparently, Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia. Ciancimino seems to be indicating through his claim that Berlusconi is a mafia victim, that Berlusconi could be a mafia puppet, which is what I wrote in the first part of this series – Was Forza Italia Formed by the Mafia? Part One.
Berlusconi himself has always strenuously denied any involvement with the mafia, although one of his closest associates, Italian Senator, Marcello Del’Utri has been found guilty of mafia association. You can read more about this in Part 1 of this series, to which Parts 3 and 4 may follow.
So what has provoked me into finally getting round to writing Part 2? Well, a few things.
As pre-empted in Part 1, here are more reasons why Italians, and this blogger, do have some reason to suspect that Forza Italia may have been instigated by the mafia.
The AnnoZero Kerfuffle
Followers of the news in Italy might remember a telephone conversation involving Berlusconi was recently intercepted, and one line from the conversation (article in Italian) concerned Berlusconi commenting that they (the media) wanted to try him as though he were a member of the mafia. From Berlusconi’s words, one obtains the impression that Berlusconi was somewhat outraged that anyone could even think he had anything to do with the mafia. Indeed, they were the words one would expect from someone who does not, and never has, had any direct contact with Italy’s mafia. Almost.
It is odd that Berlusconi should have made such a comment – unless, of course, he was aware that his calls were being intercepted. There is evidence that this was the case, in that in another intercepted conversation, Berlusconi warns someone that the calls of another party to the alleged conspiracy to keep opinions unfriendly to Berlusconi off Italy’s television were being recorded by Italy’s law enforcement bodies.
Berlusconi did not want an episode of the political chat show AnnoZero to be aired. While he did, allegedly, his level best to keep AnnoZero from being broadcast, he failed.
Back on the wire-tapping front, if Berlusconi knew or suspected that conversations between himself and others were being intercepted, then he may have watched his words, and throwing in a little comment to the effect that he was surprised people thought he was involved with the mafia may have helped throw investigators off his trail.
However, the Del’Utri connection and the fact that Berlusconi employed a mafia member, Vittorio Mangano, as stableman and gardener at his mansion in Milan, seem to indicate that the opposite might be true with regard to Berlusconi’s alleged connections to the mafia. Mangano’s telephone conversations had been intercepted, and indicated that he was running drug trafficking operations from Milan at the behest of mafia families in Palermo, Sicily. Very strange that someone as powerful as Berlusconi was not aware that he had someone suspected of connections to the mafia working, literally, in his backyard, is it not?
Here is a video interview with the late Borsellino, who talks about Mangano. The word “horses” appears to have been used as a euphemism for drugs, and Marcello Del’Utri, the friend and associate of Silvio Berlusconi mentioned before, was intercepted talking about “horses” with Mangano – who was later convicted of drug trafficking. In the video, Borsellino insinuates that the mafia may have been using Berlusconi’s businesses for money-laundering. The video has English subtitles:
As you may have noted from the video, Borsellino suspected that he might be bumped off – but not by the mafia itself, by someone else. Who?
Berlusconi the Mafia Victim
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Next, we had the late Palermo mayor’s son claiming that Berlusconi was a mafia victim. Very interesting, and this could be a round about way of indicating that Berlusconi imay be controlled by the mafia, which fits in with Borsellino’s claims that Berlusconi’s businesses may have been involved in laundering mafia cash.
Certainly some of the legislation the Berlusconi government has been passing could be seen as favourable to the mafia. This could indicate that someone has been telling Berlusconi what laws should or should not be passed. A possible example of this was an amendment to the law concerning the sale of confiscated mafia assets, which made it easier for the mafia to buy its ill-gotten gains back. This amendment did not really appear to be necessary, although there is some justification in that Italy’s police, who had been using confiscated supercars, could not afford to run these exotic vehicles, so selling them was not such a bad idea.
The forthcoming changes to Italy’s wire-tapping laws, which are causing, incidentally, considerable concern to Italy’s anti-mafia people, could be seen to be too mafia friendly. Even the US justice department has questioned the wisdom of the proposed amendments, and that is not to mention Italy’s press, which is up in arms over what it sees as an attempt to gag Italy’s journalists. Such is the furore that Berlusconi’s bods have been trying to amend the amendments to reduce the stink.
Another aspect which raises suspicions is, for reasons unknown, Italy’s law enforcement bodies are kept under-resourced, and there are not enough judges to try all the cases in Italy’s courts. This all adds up to making life for the mafia a little easier.
Many, including other very high level and respected Italian figures, such as former president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, want to know what has been and is going on.
The Ex-President’s Concerns
In today’s La Repubblica newspaper, (article in Italian) Ciampi expresses serious concerns over the bombings which happened back in the early 90s, and which led to the death of the
two prominent Italian anti-mafia judges, Falcone and Borsellino. And, even more intriguingly, the bombings happened on the eve of the launch of a new ‘political entity’ in Italy. Could that new ‘political entity’ to which Ciampi refers be Forza Italia? One wonders. Ciampi also notes that the bombings raged for a few months, and then as quickly as they had started, they, mysteriously, ended. Why? Ciampi does not know. In fact, many questions surrounding the bombings and the murders of the anti-mafia judges remain unanswered.
In connection with the judges’ murders, this week Italy’s press ran a story on a Mr Franco. This man, whose identity is known, but is being kept secret, is apparently a serving member of Italy’s secret services. It is suspected by some in Italy that the Falcone and Borsellino murders were, in part, engineered by a maverick member of Italy’s secret services, and fingers are pointing towards Mr Franco (article in Italian), his mafia and political connections.
What remains unknown, for the moment, is on whose behalf within Italy’s government (if it was indeed someone within the government) this secret service person was acting. As can be seen from the video above, Borsellino’s investigations were leading towards someone high up in Italy, and Berlusconi’s name had been mentioned as potentially being one of these high-up people. Perhaps Borsellino and Falcone had got too close to the truth, which is why someone ordered their executions? As Ciampi knows full well, eighteen years down the line, nobody is any the wiser.
Incidentally, back in the grim days in the 1990s in which bombs were going off right left and centre in Italy, Ciampi, who was the prime Minister of a technical, post tangentopoli and mani pulite, Italian government, genuinely feared that there was going to be a coup. Such was the tension in Italy in the aftermath of the dark tangentopoli and mani pulite periods of the country’s history.
So, Was Forza Italia Formed by the Mafia?
Whether Italy will ever know the truth, remains to be seen, although there are indications that investigators are painstakingly fitting the pieces of this all-Italian puzzle together. Something might come out shortly, even if the anti-wire-tapping legislation which the Berlusconi government is racing to push through, might prevent it from coming out immediately, if ever.
And finally, there is the very public distance which Berlusconi’s number two, Gianfranco Fini, has put between himself and Berlusconi. Could it be that Fini knows something most Italians don’t? One wonders.
The camel’s back seems to be holding, for the moment. The final straw has yet to be found. There are, however, plenty of reasons why someone might be suspicious that Silvio Berlusconi may be involved with organised crime in Italy. And more than a few Italians believe this to be the case.
Part 3 will come when more information breaches the surface – unless Italy’s press gagging proves to be a success.