Ge­lati bar hit had mafia style but was no God­fa­ther

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - CHIP LE GRAND

As a who­dunit, the ex­e­cu­tion­style mur­der of Joseph Ac­quaro had the feel of a Mario Puzo novel — a lawyer to the mob ap­par­ently shot down in cold blood for break­ing the omerta, the code of si­lence that pro­tects the mafia and its ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties.

As a mur­der case now be­fore the Mel­bourne Mag­is­trates Court, the ver­sion of events al­leged by po­lice is far more mun­dane — a dis­pute be­tween two age­ing men over ren­o­va­tions gone wrong at a ge­lati bar.

Vin­cenzo Crupi, a 69-yearold man from the Mel­bourne sub­urb of Reser­voir, was yes­ter­day charged by po­lice with the mur­der of Giuseppe Al­fredo Gae­tano Ac­quaro on March 15, 2016.

Po­lice will al­lege Mr Crupi ap­proached Ac­quaro in a dark­ened laneway, shortly af­ter he had locked up his Brunswick gelataria for the night, and shot him dead at close range.

They will not al­lege that Mr Crupi has any links to the mob or that he was act­ing on be­half of any­one else.

They be­lieve this was a per­sonal score, set­tled in bloody fash­ion, over money and a sus­pi­cious fire at the gelataria.

The death of Ac­quaro, a long-time con­fi­dant of Ital­ian­born busi­ness­man Tony Madaf­feri — a man never charged with a crime but sus­pected by po­lice of be­ing a se­nior fig­ure in the Cal­abrian mafia — out­raged po­lice and Mel­bourne’s le­gal com­mu­nity.

Less than a year be­fore Ac­quaro’s death, po­lice had con­fronted Mr Madaf­feri in one of his super­mar­kets and told him they knew a $200,000 con­tract had been put out on Ac­quaro’s head. Ac­cord­ing to a sworn state­ment ten­dered in the Vic­to­rian Supreme Court by Mr Madaf­feri’s solic­i­tor, Paolo Tatti, po­lice warned Mr Madaf­feri that if some­thing hap­pened to Ac­quaro, “they would know where to start look­ing”.

In the days af­ter Ac­quaro was gunned down, wild sto­ries cir­cu­lated of an as­sas­sin be­ing flown in from over­seas to carry out what ap­peared to be a pro­fes­sional hit. Within weeks, how­ever, the po­lice nar­rowed in on Mr Crupi and his bit­ter feud with the debonair, 55-year-old lawyer.

Mr Crupi, a labourer by trade, was en­gaged by Ac­quaro to help ren­o­vate his gelataria. In early 2016, the two men al­legedly came to blows af­ter they ar­gued about money. The ge­lati store was dam­aged by fire and Ac­quaro ac­cused Mr Crupi of light­ing it.

In an in­ter­view with the Her­ald Sun ear­lier this year, Mr Crupi de­nied light­ing the fire and any in­volve­ment in Ac­quaro’s death, say­ing he was home with his wife at the time the lawyer was killed. He said he knew Mr Madaf­feri but de­nied act­ing on his in­struc­tions.

Mr Madaf­feri was in­ter­viewed by po­lice and is not a sus­pect in the case.

Mr Crupi was ar­raigned at the Mel­bourne Mag­is­trates Court yes­ter­day on one count of mur­der. He de­clined to ap­pear in court and did not make an ap­pli­ca­tion for bail.

He will next ap­pear in court at a com­mit­tal men­tion hear­ing.

Ac­quaro

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