Luciano Leggio at a court appearance in 1974
|Founding location||Corleone, Sicily|
|Territory||Sicily, Lazio, Lombardy|
|Allies|| Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan |
Banda della Magliana
Motisi Mafia family
Santapaola Mafia family
|Rivals|| Inzerillo Mafia clan |
Bontade Mafia family
Calderone Mafia family
and numerous others Palermo Mafia families
|Notable members||Luciano Leggio, Totò Riina, Calogero Bagarella, Bernardo Provenzano, Leoluca Bagarella, Giovanni Brusca|
The Corleonesi Mafia clan was a faction within the Corleone family of the Sicilian Mafia, formed in the 1970s. Notable leaders included Luciano Leggio, Salvatore Riina, Leoluca Bagarella and Bernardo Provenzano.
Corleonesi affiliates were not restricted to mafiosi of Corleone. During the Second Mafia War in the early 1980s, the Corleonesi clan opposed the faction of the Palermitans represented, among others, by Gaetano Badalamenti, Stefano Bontate and Salvatore Inzerillo. The victory of the Corleonesi, and in particular the rise of Totò Riina, marked a new era in the history of the Sicilian Mafia. Between 1992 and 1993, the Corleonesi initiated a season of attacks against the state, followed by the State-Mafia Pact.
In February 1971, the Corleonesi clan's first boss Luciano Leggio, ordered the kidnapping for extortion of Antonino Caruso, son of the industrialist Giacomo Caruso, and also that of the son of the builder Francesco Vassallo in Palermo.Leggio was linked to the murder of the General Attorney of Sicily, Pietro Scaglione, who was shot dead on 5 May 1971 with his police bodyguard Antonino Lo Russo. He became a fugitive, and was finally captured in Milan on 16 May 1974. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975. By the end of the 1970s, his lieutenant Salvatore Riina, who was also a fugitive, was in control of the Corleonesi clan.
The Corleonesi's primary rivals were Stefano Bontade, Salvatore Inzerillo and Tano Badalamenti, bosses of various powerful Palermo Mafia families. Between 1981 and 1983, Bontade and Inzerillo, together with many associates and members of both their Mafia and blood families, were killed. There were up to a thousand killings during this period as Riina and the Corleonesi, together with their allies, wiped out their rivals. By the end of the war, the Corleonesi were effectively ruling the Mafia, and over the next few years Riina increased his influence by eliminating the Corleonesi's allies, such as Filippo Marchese, Giuseppe Greco and Rosario Riccobono. In February 1980, Tommaso Buscetta fled to Brazil to escape the brewing Second Mafia War instigated by Riina.
Whereas Riina's predecessors had kept a low profile, leading some in law enforcement to question the very existence of the Mafia, Riina ordered the murders of judges, policemen and prosecutors in an attempt to terrify the authorities. A law to create a new offence of Mafia association and confiscate Mafia assets was introduced by Pio La Torre, secretary of the Italian Communist Party in Sicily, but it had been stalled in parliament for two years. La Torre was murdered on 30 April 1982. In May 1982, the Italian government sent Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, a general of the Italian Carabinieri, to Sicily with orders to crush the Mafia. However, not long after arriving, on 3 September 1982, he was gunned down in the city centre with his wife, Emanuela Setti Carraro, and his driver bodyguard, Domenico Russo. In response to public disquiet about the failure to effectively combat the organisation Riina headed, La Torre's law was passed ten days later.On 11 September 1982, Buscetta's two sons from his first wife, Benedetto and Antonio, disappeared, never to be found again, which prompted his collaboration with Italian authorities. This was followed by the deaths of his brother Vincenzo, son-in-law Giuseppe Genova, brother-in-law Pietro and four of his nephews, Domenico and Benedetto Buscetta, and Orazio and Antonio D 'Amico. Buscetta was arrested in Sao Paulo, Brazil once again on 23 October 1983, and extradited to Italy on 28 June 1984. Buscetta asked to talk to the anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, and began his life as an informant, referred to as a pentito .
Buscetta was the first high-profile Sicilian Mafiosi to become an informant; he revealed that the Mafia was a single organisation led by a Commission, or Cupola (Dome), thereby establishing that the top tier of Mafia members were complicit in all the organisation's crimes.Buscetta helped judges Falcone and Paolo Borsellino achieve significant success in the fight against organized crime that led to 475 Mafia members indicted, and 338 convicted in the Maxi Trial.
In an attempt to divert investigative resources away from Buscetta's key revelations, Riina ordered a terrorist-style atrocity, the 23 December 1984 Train 904 bombing; 17 people were killed and 267 wounded. It became known as the "Christmas Massacre" (Strage di Natale) and was initially attributed to political extremists. It was only several years later, when police stumbled on explosives of the same type as used in Train 904 while searching the hideout of Giuseppe Calò, that it became apparent that the Mafia had been behind the attack.
As part of the Maxi Trial, Riina was given two life sentences in absentia.Riina pinned his hopes on the lengthy appeal process that had frequently set convicted mafiosi free, and he suspended the campaign of murders against officials while the cases went to higher courts. When the convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of Cassation in January 1992, the council of top bosses headed by Riina reacted by ordering the assassination of Salvatore Lima (on the grounds that he was an ally of Giulio Andreotti), and Giovanni Falcone.
On 23 May 1992, Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and three police officers died in the Capaci bombing on highway A29 outside Palermo. Two months later, Borsellino was killed along with five police officers in the entrance to his mother's apartment block by a car bomb in via D'Amelio. Both attacks were ordered by Riina. Ignazio Salvo, who had advised Riina against killing Falcone, was himself murdered on 17 September 1992. The public was outraged, both at the Mafia and also the politicians who they felt had failed adequately to protect Falcone and Borsellino. The Italian government arranged for a massive crackdown against the Mafia in response.
News reports in May 2019, indicated that a Cosa Nostra insider revealed that John Gotti of the Gambino crime family had sent one of their explosives experts to Sicily to work with the Corleonesi. This individual allegedly helped plan the bombing that would kill Falcone. One mafia expert was surprised that the two groups would cooperate because the American Cosa Nostra was affiliated with the rivals of the Corleonesi. But another expert said the joint effort was understandable. "It may be that the Gambinos at a certain point recognised that the Corleonesi had been victorious in the war between rival families in Sicily ... there is nothing unusual in the traffic of personnel and ideas across the Atlantic ... they were cousin organisations," according to John Dickie, professor of Italian studies at University College London and the author of Mafia Republic – Italy’s Criminal Curse.
On 15 January 1993, Carabinieri arrested Riina at his villa in Palermo. He had been a fugitive for 23 years.After Riina's capture, a division emerged among the Corleonesi, and a series of bombings occurred by the Corleonesi against several tourist spots on the Italian mainland — the Via dei Georgofili bombing in Florence, Via Palestro massacre in Milan and the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and Via San Teodoro in Rome, which left 10 people dead and 93 injured as well as severe damage. In total, Riina was given 26 life sentences, and served his sentence in solitary confinement.
Giovanni Brusca – one of Riina's hitmen who personally detonated the bomb that killed Falcone, and became a state witness (pentito) after his arrest in 1996 – has offered a controversial version of the capture of Totò Riina: a secret deal between Carabinieri officers, secret agents and Cosa Nostra bosses tired of the dictatorship of Riina’s faction of the Corleonesi. According to Brusca, Provenzano "sold" Riina in exchange for the valuable archive of compromising material that Riina held in his apartment in Via Bernini 52 in Palermo.
Some investigators believed that most of those who carried out murders for Cosa Nostra answered solely to Leoluca Bagarella, and that consequently Bagarella actually wielded more power than Bernardo Provenzano, who was Riina's formal successor. Provenzano reportedly protested about the terroristic attacks, but Bagarella responded sarcastically, telling Provenzano to wear a sign saying "I don't have anything to do with the massacres".
On June 24, 1995, Bagarella was arrested, having been a fugitive for four years.In total, Bagarella was given 13 life sentences plus 106 years and ten months, and solitary confinement for 6 years.
Provenzano subsequently took the reigns of the Corleonesi. Provenzano had been a fugitive from the law since 1963.Provenzano was finally captured on 11 April 2006, by the Italian police near his home town, Corleone. After the arrest of Provenzano, the power of the Corleonesi was decimated.
Corleonesi affiliates were not restricted to mafiosi of Corleone. The Corleone Mafia bosses initiated “men of honour”, not necessarily from Corleone, whose status was kept hidden from the other members of the Corleone cosca and other Mafia families. Members of other Mafia families who sided with Riina and Provenzano were called Corleonesi as well, forming a coalition that dominated the Mafia in the 1980s and 1990s, that can be considered as a kind of parallel Cosa Nostra. (Giovanni Brusca from the San Giuseppe Jato Mafia family was considered to be part of the Corleonesi faction for example)
The pentito (Mafia turncoat) Antonino Calderone provided first-hand accounts of the leaders of the Corleonesi: Luciano Leggio, Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. About Leggio, Calderone said:
"He liked to kill. He had a way of looking at people that could frighten anyone, even us mafiosi. The smallest thing set him off, and then a strange light would appear in his eyes that created silence around him. When you were in his company you had to be careful about how you spoke. The wrong tone of voice, a misconstrued word, and all of a sudden that silence. Everything would instantly be hushed, uneasy, and you could smell death in the air."
"The Corleone bosses were not educated at all, but they were cunning and diabolical," Calderone said about Riina and Provenzano. "They were both clever and ferocious, a rare combination in Cosa Nostra." Calderone described Totò Riina as "unbelievably ignorant, but he had intuition and intelligence and was difficult to fathom and very hard to predict." Riina was soft spoken, highly persuasive and often highly sentimental. He followed the simple codes of the brutal, ancient world of the Sicilian countryside, where force is the only law and there is no contradiction between personal kindness and extreme ferocity. "His philosophy was that if someone’s finger hurt, it was better to cut off his whole arm just to make sure," Calderone said.
Another pentito Leonardo Messina described how the Corleonesi organized their rise to power:
"They took power by slowly, slowly killing everyone ... We were kind of infatuated with them because we thought that getting rid of the old bosses we would become the new bosses. Some people killed their brother, others their cousin and so on, because they thought they would take their places. Instead, slowly, (the Corleonesi) gained control of the whole system ... First they used us to get rid of the old bosses, then they got rid of all those who raised their heads, like Pino Greco (aka Scarpuzzedda, Little shoe), Mario Prestifilippo and Vincenzo Puccio ... all that’s left are men without character, who are their puppets."
Tommaso Buscetta was an Italian mobster, a member of the Sicilian Mafia, who became one of the first of its members to turn informant (pentito) and explain the inner workings of the organization.
Bernardo Provenzano was an Italian mobster and chief of the Sicilian Mafia clan known as the Corleonesi, a Mafia faction that originated in the town of Corleone, and de facto il capo dei capi. His nickname was Binnu u tratturi because, in the words of one informant, "he mows people down." Another nickname was il ragioniere due to his apparently subtle and low-key approach to running his crime empire, at least in contrast to some of his more violent predecessors.
Giovanni Brusca is an Italian former member of the Sicilian Mafia. He murdered the anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in 1992, and once stated that he had committed between 100 and 200 murders. He had been sentenced to life in prison in absentia for Mafia association and multiple murders. Brusca was captured in 1996, and turned pentito.
Stefano Bontade was a powerful member of the Sicilian Mafia. He was commonly called Bontade but the actual surname is Bontate. He was the boss of the Santa Maria di Gesù Family in Palermo. He was also known as the Principe di Villagrazia − the area of Palermo he controlled − and Il Falco. He had links with several powerful politicians in Sicily with links to former prime minister Giulio Andreotti. In 1981 he was killed by the rival faction within Cosa Nostra, the Corleonesi. His death sparked a brutal Mafia War that left several hundred mafiosi dead.
The Maxi Trial was a criminal trial against the Sicilian Mafia that took place in Palermo, Sicily. The trial lasted from 10 February 1986 to 30 January 1992, and was held in a bunker-style courthouse specially constructed for this purpose inside the walls of the Ucciardone prison.
Leoluca Bagarella is an Italian criminal and member of the Sicilian Mafia. He is from the town of Corleone. Following Salvatore Riina's arrest in early 1993, Bagarella had taken over as il capo dei capi of the Corleonesi, rivalling Riina's putative successor, Bernardo Provenzano. Bagarella was captured in 1995, having been a fugitive for four years, and sentenced to life imprisonment for Mafia association and multiple murder.
Filippo Marchese was a leading figure in the Sicilian Mafia and a hitman suspected of dozens of homicides. Marchese was one of the most feared killers working for mafia boss Vincenzo Chiaracane, closely related to the Giuseppe Greco family which was in control of the Ciaculli neighbourhood of Palermo.
Vito Alfio Ciancimino was an Italian politician close to the Mafia leadership who became known for enriching himself and his associates by corruptly granting planning permission. An abrasive personality, he served briefly as mayor of Palermo, Sicily as a Christian Democrat. Ciancimino was close to Mafia boss and perennial fugitive Bernardo Provenzano, but regarded Salvatore Riina as irrational.
Michele Greco was a member of the Sicilian Mafia, previously incarcerated for multiple murders. His nickname was Il Papa because of his ability to mediate between different Mafia families. Greco was the head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission.
The Sicilian Mafia Commission, known as Commissione or Cupola, is a body of leading Sicilian Mafia members to decide on important questions concerning the actions of, and settling disputes within the Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra. It is composed of representatives of a mandamento that are called capo mandamento or rappresentante. The Commission is not a central government of the Mafia, but a representative mechanism for consultation of independent Mafia families who decide by consensus. "Contrary to the wide-spread image presented by the media, these superordinate bodies of coordination cannot be compared with the executive boards of major legal firms. Their power is intentionally limited [and] it would be entirely wrong to see in the Cosa Nostra a centrally managed, internationally active Mafia holding company," according to criminologist Letizia Paoli.
Cesare Terranova was an Italian judge and politician from Sicily notable for his anti-Mafia stance. From 1958 until 1971 Terranova was an examining magistrate at the Palermo prosecuting office. He was one of the first to seriously investigate the Mafia and the financial operations of Cosa Nostra. He was killed by the Mafia in 1979. Cesare Terranova can be considered the predecessor of the magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino who were also killed by the Mafia in 1992.
Salvatore Cancemi was an Italian mobster and member of the Sicilian Mafia from Palermo. He is the first member of the Sicilian Mafia Commission that turned himself in voluntarily to become a pentito, a collaborator with the Italian judicial authorities. Cancemi made controversial allegations about the collusion of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his right-hand man Marcello Dell'Utri with the Mafia.
Antonino Calderone was a Sicilian Mafioso who turned state witness (pentito) in 1987 after his arrest in 1986.
Gaspare Mutolo is a Sicilian mafioso, also known as "Asparino". In 1992 he became a pentito. He was the first mafioso who spoke about the connections between Cosa Nostra and Italian politicians. Mutolo’s declarations contributed to the indictment of Italy’s former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and to an understanding of the context of the 1992 Mafia murders of the politician Salvo Lima and the magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
The Second Mafia War was a conflict within the Sicilian Mafia, mostly taking place from 1981 to 1983, although the first shots had been fired in 1978, and some killing continued until the end of the 1980s. It involved over a thousand homicides.
Il Capo dei Capi is a six-part Italian miniseries which debuted on Canale 5 between October and November 2007. It tells the story of Salvatore Riina, alias Totò u Curtu, a mafioso boss from Corleone, Sicily. Riina is played by Palermo-born actor, Claudio Gioè, and the series was directed by Alexis Sweet and Enzo Monteleone. The film is inspired from the eponymous book-inquiry of Giuseppe D'Avanzo and Attilio Bolzoni. The series was broadcast in the UK in the spring of 2013 on the Sky Arts channel, retitled Corleone and split into 12 one-hour episodes.
Calogero Bagarella was an Italian criminal and member of the Sicilian Mafia. He was from the town of Corleone and belonged to the Mafia clan of Corleonesi.
The Viale Lazio massacre on 10 December 1969 was a settling of accounts in the Sicilian Mafia. Mafia boss Michele Cavataio and three men were killed in the Viale Lazio in Palermo (Sicily) by a Mafia hit squad. The bloodbath marked the end of a ‘pax mafiosa’ that had reigned since the Ciaculli massacre until the end of the Trial of the 114 against Cosa Nostra.
Salvatore Riina, called Totò 'u Curtu, was an Italian mobster and chief of the Sicilian Mafia, known for a ruthless murder campaign that reached a peak in the early 1990s with the assassinations of Antimafia Commission prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, resulting in widespread public outcry and a major crackdown by the authorities. He was also known by the nicknames la belva and il capo dei capi.
The term State-Mafia Pact defines the negotiation between important Italian functionaries and Cosa nostra members, that began after the period of the 1992 and 1993 terror attacks by the Sicilian Mafia with the aim to reach a deal and so to stop the attacks. In summary, the supposed cornerstone of the deal was the end of the so-called "massacres season" in return for detention measures attenuation expected by Italian article 41-bis, thanks to which Antimafia pool led by Giovanni Falcone condemned hundreds of mafia members to the so-called "hard prison regime". The negotiation hypothesis has been the subject of long judicial investigations - not yet concluded - and some journalistic investigations.