A probe into modern day Cosa Nostra crime in Sicily stumbled upon evidence which appears to have solved a 100-year-old Mafia murder mystery.
Police arrested 95 people on Monday (June 23) for extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering.
But, in the process, Italian officers may also have solved the century-old mob murder of a New York detective.
Joe Petrosino, a New York police detective, was shot dead while on the island to collect evidence for a Mafia probe in 1909.
Domenico Palazzotto, among the 95 arrested this week, was secretly recorded boasting that his great-uncle had been Petrosino’s killer, according to Reuters.
Library of Congress
Detective Lt. Joseph Petrosiino( left) , Inspector Carey and Inspector McCafferty escorting Mafia hitman Petto the Ox (Tomasso Petto, second from left)
Petrosino's coffin arriving to his widow's home
In the details of the conversation, which features in the 872-page arrest warrant published on Monday (June 23), one of the mobsters, Domenico Palazzotto, said his family had celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the 1909 murder of Italian-American New York policeman Lieutenant Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino.
“We have been mobsters for 100 years,” says Palazzotto, 33, according to a wiretap planted by police in his Audi A3.
“My father’s uncle, whose name was Paolo Palazzotto … was the first to kill a cop in Palermo … Joe Petrosino, an American cop,” he says.
Petrosino was one of the pioneers in fighting organised crime and extortion rackets , taking on Sicilian and Italian gangsters in several American cities.
He was fatally shot four times in the street, while waiting for a supposed informant in Palermo.
His murder shocked Americans and more than 200,000 turned out for his funeral.
The latest Mafia investigation has been going on for two years. The arrests went after members of two mafia groups that have long operated in the western part of Palermo, the island’s capital and largest city, court documents showed.
“There hasn’t been a dragnet on this scale in many years,” finance police Colonel Calogero Scibetta told Reuters. “These arrests have wiped out two entire mob families.”
In recent years police and prosecutors have dealt severe blows to the Sicilian mafia, historically Italy’s most powerful criminal group, while its sister organisation, the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria at the southern end of the Italian mainland, has grown in strength by becoming a big importer of cocaine.
To a Sicilian mob decimated by arrests and seeking to rebuild, criminal pedigree is important, as shown by Palazzotto’s alleged comments about the killing of Petrosino.