Falcone, Giovanni

   The symbol of the Italian state’s struggle against the mafia, Giovanni Falcone was brutally murdered in a bomb attack on 23 May 1992. He had rapidly risen to national prominence as an assistant district attorney in his native Palermo, where he was first the right-hand man of a heroic antimafia prosecutor, Rocco Chinnici (murdered by Cosa Nostra in 1983), and then, between 1984 and 1987, the lead prosecutor in the huge trial of Michele “the pope” Greco (the boss of the Sicilian mafia) and dozens of other gangsters. Falcone was the first prosecutor to breach the omerta (code of silence) that the mafia imposed upon its affiliates, by persuading a senior figure in the underworld, Tommaso Buscetta, to reveal all he knew of the organization’s internal workings. In the 1990s, Buscetta was a key witness in the Italian state’s investigation into former prime minister Giulio Andreotti’s alleged links to organized crime.
   In the late 1980s, the efforts of Falcone and his antimafia “pool” of prosecutors in Palermo were hampered by the judicial and political hierarchies in Palermo. Falcone (who survived a bomb attack in June 1989) decided that he could continue the fight against the mafia better from Rome, and, in 1991, with the encouragement of the justice minister, Claudio Martelli, he created the Direzione Nazionale Antimafia/National Antimafia Agency (DNA), a toplevel, FBI-style task force that coordinates action against organized crime. Judicial politics prevented Falcone from becoming the first chief of this organization (the post went, instead, to another courageous prosecutor, Agostino Cordova), but the creation of the DNAwas the decisive step in the struggle against organized crime. Literally hundreds of gangsters, including the boss of bosses, Toto Riina, have been arrested since 1991. This victory for legality is Falcone’s legacy.
   Falcone was murdered while traveling between Palermo airport and the city center, by a buried bomb set off by remote control. It blew a huge crater in the highway, killing his wife, Franca, and three bodyguards, as well as Judge Falcone. The grief and rage that were felt throughout Italy at his death had profound political implications, leading directly to the election of OscarLuigi Scalfaro as president of the Republic and stimulating growing public frustration with a political system that had for years tolerated and even collaborated with the bosses of Cosa Nostra.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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