Mafia boss behind 150 killings Giovanni Brusca released from jail

Notorious Mafioso turned state informant to reduce sentence

Giovanni Brusca (C) is led off by police following his interrogation in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, 21 May 1996. EPA
Giovanni Brusca (C) is led off by police following his interrogation in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, 21 May 1996. EPA

A mafia boss nicknamed "the Pig" who killed a famous prosecutor and dissolved a boy's body in acid was released from jail on Monday, sparking outrage across Italy.

Giovanni Brusca, 64, left Rome's Rebibbia prison after a 25-year sentence, during which he became a state witness. He will now serve four years of probation.

"Brusca freed – the cruellest boss," read La Repubblica daily.

His release was condemned by politicians and relatives of his victims, although others defended it given his co-operation with the authorities.

In 1992, Brusca detonated the bomb that killed Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecuting magistrate who dedicated his career to overthrowing the mafia.

Mr Falcone's wife and three bodyguards were also killed in the attack after their car drove over a section of motorway packed with 400 kilograms of explosives outside Palermo.

The bomb was detonated by Brusca near by.

Tina Montinaro, the wife of one of the bodyguards killed, told Repubblica she was "indignant" at Brusca's release.

"The state is against us," Ms Montinaro said. "After 29 years we still don't know the truth about the massacre and Giovanni Brusca, the man who destroyed my family, is free."

He was one of the most loyal operators of the head of Cosa Nostra, Salvatore Toto Riina, "the Beast" who died behind bars in 2017.

Arrested in 1996, Brusca decided to co-operate with the authorities, admitting to hundreds of murders, Italian media reported.

One of the most grisly was that of Giuseppe Di Matteo, 12, the son of a mafia turncoat, who was kidnapped in 1993 in retaliation for his father having collaborated with authorities.

Giovanni Brusca at the time of his arrest in Sicily. Relations of his numerous victims are furious he has been set free. EPA
Giovanni Brusca at the time of his arrest in Sicily. Relations of his numerous victims are furious he has been set free. EPA

After being held in a house for more than two years in squalid conditions, the boy was strangled and his body thrown into acid in what police have called "one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Cosa Nostra".

"The law cannot be the same for these people," the boy's father, Santino Di Matteo, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"Brusca does not deserve anything. These people are not human."

Mr Di Matteo recalled how Brusca "also killed a 23-year-old pregnant woman" who had nothing to do with the mafia, "after torturing her boyfriend".

He said he hoped he would never meet him on the street.

"I don't know what might happen," said Mr Di Matteo, who still lives in a secret location for fear of mafia retribution.

We need heavy jail term reductions for those who help the state, and the prospect of life imprisonment

Pietro Grasso

There were also protests from both sides of Italy's political divide.

The leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, called the news a "punch in the stomach that leaves one speechless".

Far-right leader Matteo Salvini called Brusca a "wild beast" who "cannot get out of prison".

But Pietro Grasso, a leftist politician and former Senate president who was once on the killer's hit-list, saw "no scandal".

Mr Grasso was a magistrate and Italy's chief anti-mafia prosecutor before switching to politics in 2013.

He said he had little sympathy for Brusca, especially after the assassin and his aides plotted to kill him and kidnap his son.

But Mr Grasso said it was right to offer jail-term reductions to mobsters who turned state informants.

"The indignation of many politicians who understand very little about the penal code and the fight against the mafia scares me," he wrote on Facebook.

"We need heavy jail term reductions for those who help the state, and the prospect of life imprisonment, with no reductions, for those who do not co-operate."

Updated: June 2, 2021 03:27 AM

SHARE

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one

Most Read