Re­grets, no re­morse for jailed Si­cily mafia vet­eran

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST - BY FANNY CAR­RIER

More than two decades in prison spent study­ing and writ­ing has made con­victed Si­cil­ian killer Giuseppe Gras­sonelli a changed man.

But the one-time petty crim­i­nal who be­came a player in the is­land’s bru­tal mafia wars of the 1980s and early 1990s ex­presses no re­morse for his crimes.

“Pippo,” now 50, says they were nec­es­sary for his own sur­vival and is re­signed to spend­ing the rest of his life in jail.

In the vis­it­ing room at Sul­mona prison in Italy’s moun­tain­ous Abruzzo re­gion, he greets call­ers with a steely gaze and re­counts his blood-stained life in un­flinch­ing fash­ion.

With jour­nal­ist Carmelo Sardo, Gras­sonelli has told his story in prize-win­ning book “Malerba.”

Be­tween 1991 and his ar­rest in Novem­ber 1992, Gras­sonelli was a lead­ing fig­ure in La Stidda, a group which emerged in the 1980s as a splin­ter from and ri­val to Cosa Nos­tra, the long-es­tab­lished Si­cil­ian mafia. At the time, in­ter­nal mob ri­val­ries were claim­ing hun­dreds of lives per year on the is­land.

He hides noth­ing: he killed or or­ga­nized killings, time af­ter time, be­cause, he says, he had no choice.

“They killed my grand­fa­ther, my un­cles, my cousins. Four times they tried to kill me,” he told AFP.

Barely in his teens when he took part in his first armed rob­bery, he was sent at 17 to Ger­many, where a Ham­burg-based friend of an un­cle taught him how to rig poker games.

The youth­ful Pippo had a tal­ent for cheat­ing at cards and the cash be­gan to flow, fund­ing a lifestyle of women, co­caine and BMWs pushed to their lim­its on the au­to­bahns. “For me that was life, the won­der­ful life,” he re­called.

Smartly Dressed Killers

The idyll was in­ter­rupted on Sept. 21, 1986 when Gras­sonelli’s grand­fa­ther and five other rel­a­tives were killed in an at­tack which, he writes in the book, had it ori­gins in a dis­pute be­tween two fam­i­lies over a bro­ken-off en­gage­ment.

At home for the sum­mer, he es­caped with a bullet wound to a foot and re­treated to Ger­many to plot re­venge, af­ter his fa­ther told him that two prom­i­nent Cosa Nos­tra fig­ures were to blame.

Money and arms were ar­ranged for al­lies or­ga­niz­ing on the is­land and, a few years later, he re­turned as the al­leged head of his own clan of mal­con­tents.

“Giuseppe Gras­sonelli was clearly the most in­tel­li­gent mem­ber of the group. It was he who changed the killers’ way of op­er­at­ing,” said his co-au­thor Sardo.

The new boss’s trade­mark be­came as­sas­si­na­tions car­ried out by killers dressed in suits and ties rather than masked men on mo­tor­cy­cles.

To­day, he in­sists that his vic­tims were all mafia mob­sters out to kill him and that, in the Si­cily of the time, go­ing to the po­lice was not an op­tion.

That does not mean he does not re­flect on the past. “No­body wants to be in a war, all it is is shit and blood,” he said. “And the ghosts of it haunt you all your life.

“I would never do again what I have done,” he added.

“But if, at 23, I’d had the ed­u­ca­tion I now have, in the his­tor­i­cal con­text of the 1980/90s I don’t know if I would have acted dif­fer­ently.”

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