World News

05.29.14

Jailed Italian Crime Boss Says Mafia Helped Berlusconi Government

Antonio Iovine’s court testimony, obtained by The Daily Beast, could shake the country’s political establishment and send a good deal of it to jail.

NAPLES — When 49-year-old Camorra crime boss Antonio Iovine was discovered hiding in a custom-fit wall cavity inside a Neapolitan villa in 2010 after 14 years on the lam for murder, extortion, and Mafia collusion, no one ever thought he would talk. After all, O’Ninno, as he was nicknamed for his cute baby face, was one of the Casalesi clan’s four big bosses, and he still wielded considerable power, even without saying a word. 

But thanks to the implementation of a rarely used Italian law known as Article 41-bis, which greatly restricts prisoner rights including basic communication with others for certain criminals, Iovine buckled under the pressure of solitary confinement and started to sing last week. What he has told authorities so far could “make the Italian political and business worlds tremble,” according to Roberto Saviano, journalist and best-selling author of Gomorra, who lives in hiding under police escort for death threats from Iovine and others. “He knows everything.”

Iovine’s decision to tell all came in the form of a telegram to investigating magistrates Antonnello Ardiduto and Cesare Sirignano, in which he wrote, simply, “I want to confer with ‘the law’,” according to court documents shown to The Daily Beast. He then testified under oath on a number of occasions beginning May 22. “I started killing in the ‘80s,” he said, according to the court documents. He then described various scenarios in which he killed police officers, bodyguards and opposition clan members. He killed people in discotheques, on lonely roads and in broad daylight. He also told police how he took his wife and daughter with him on hit jobs in Brazil and Portugal during which he “participated in the killings” while they enjoyed what amounted to family vacations.

While details of the killings have certain shock value even if they sound like a Sopranos season finale, his testimony about how deeply involved Italy’s political establishment is with the Camorra clans will have far greater impact. Iovine described himself as a “quotista” which he says meant he was a sort of bookkeeper dealing with fiscal affairs relating to extortion and the Camorra’s Casalesi-controlled garbage management assets in the region in and around Naples. According to court documents, he said that he often dealt directly with Italy’s environmental and agricultural ministry underlings, who he says were working with full approval from the government in Rome. At one time he says clan members even called him the “minister of garbage” for his close ties to the government. “He is someone who knows everything,” Saviano wrote in his La Repubblica column. “And so now everything could change. The earth is trembling for a large part of the business and political worlds—and for entire branches of institutions.”

He killed people in discotheques, on lonely roads and in broad daylight.

Iovine said he and three other bosses played with a budget of around €60,000 a month each to pay the foot soldiers who collected the “pizzo” (protection money) and those who acted as loan sharks and other functionaries who did his clan’s business, which netted around €350,000 each month. He and the three other bosses took paychecks of around €140,000 each month for their work.

He also said that Italian politicians, mayors, and other ministers relied on the Camorra to facilitate certain initiatives or secure votes, often in exchange for cash or favors including building and tax permits that cut through red tape that would have been otherwise prohibitive for the mob. “There was money for everyone, the system is completely corrupt,” he said. “It didn’t matter the political color… the system operated—and still operates—the same way.” 

Iovine’s confessions were made public as part of hard evidence against Nicola Cosentino, a key ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is facing trial in Naples for Mafia collusion. If the trial proves a direct tie between Costentino, the Camorra and Berlusconi’s party faithful, it could mean a string of arrests for Italy’s political elite. Iovine’s allegations of collusion with the government fall during the period of time when Berlusconi was in power, meaning his ministers are those Iovine says contracted his clan’s services.

Government officials, including the current Interior minister Angelino Alfano, who was another key Berlusconi ally before they parted ways in a political breakdown last year, are potential targets in any further investigations. Alfano, who was head of the environmental ministry when Iovine says he worked in their shadows, brushed off allegations of corruption, welcoming any leads that he hoped would “help defeat the Camorra.”

Another parliamentarian fingered by Iovine, Lorenzo Diana, who also lives under police escort after receiving credible Camorra death threats, said that the turncoat’s allegations should be taken lightly. “Iovine is just looking out for himself,” he told Italy’s SKY TV. “If I was working with them, why do they want to kill me?

Saviano instead says the news of Iovine turning states evidence could destroy the Camorra power core and expose networks that could extend far beyond Italy’s borders. “Iovine was the organization,” Saviano writes. “This is news that risks changing for good what we know to be true about business and organized crime not only in Campania, and not only in Italy but beyond. The companies, big and small, which were born and prospered thanks to the flow of cash from Antonio Iovine, must now surely feel as if they’re in a room whose walls are increasingly closing in.”