People who fought against the mafia

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
Fighting the mafia has never been easy. People who tried to investigate or spoke out against them often ended up murdered
Also there was not much known about the mafia, not about the organization nor the way they conducted their business.

Giovanni Falcone was born in Palermo in 1939. He studied law and became a prosecuting magistrate in Palermo in 1980. At that moment a large case against the Inzerillo family was investigated. The prosecuting judge Gaetano Costa signed 55 arrestwarrants against members of the family. He was the only one who signed, since all his colleagues refused.

Giovanni Falcone realized that they did not know enough about the mafia and how it worked and thought the best way to investigate them was to follow the moneytransactions. Without computers he analyzed all the data he got from the banks in Palermo.

Giovanni Falcone
An old friend of Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino, had also been working as a magistrate in Palermo since 1975. He was born in 1940 and he had worked all over Sicily. He had been a close friend of Emanuele Basile, a police inspector who was killed by the mafia in 1980. Paolo Borsellino had been one of the first persons who had round the clock police protection.

Both men realized how often their investigations ended up with nothing and how often they were obstructed.
The next problem the magistrates noticed was that all the mafia cases were investigated separately. They came up with the idea of an anti-mafia-pool; a couple of magistrates who specialized in mafia cases, combining all their knowledge. The other positive effect was that there was never only one person responsible for warrants or arrests. The idea of the pool was constantly obstructed, until Pio Le Torre and Carlo Dalla Chiesa were murdered and public outrage was so high the law was finally changed.

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were in the anti-mafia pool and they began to prepare the so called ‘maxi-trial’; a trial against hundreds of Mafiosi  that lasted almost a year from 1986 to 1987. Many of the Mafiosi were sentenced to years in prison, many even for life. Some were sentenced in absentia, like Totò Riina or Bernardo Provenzano.

Paolo Borsellino
Despite the successes, there were of course still people who tried to obstruct them. It would have been the logical choice to give Giovanni Falcone the position of chief prosecutor in Palermo, but he was denied.

The threats, the constant police protection and the obstruction he encountered finally made Giovanni Falcone take a job in Rome. He wanted to try to change the laws and fight against the mafia from over there. Some people saw this as a capitulation and accused him of being a coward.

Of course Giovanni Falocne still visited Palermo regularly. Mafia leader Totò Riina wanted to have his revenge for the damage that was done to the mafia in the maxi trial and he ordered the murder of Falcone.
On May 23 in 1992 Giovanni Falcone and his wife drove over the motorway from the airport to Palermo. A bomb under the motorway blew up the car and the policecar that followed them.

Front page of La Repubblica after the murder of Falcone
There had never been such an outcry of public rage and mourning. Thousands attended the funeral and parliament declared a day of public mourning.

Paolo Borsellino wanted to investigate the murder of his friend, but he was not allowed to do so.
He did do some investigations and found out people within the magistrates department were linked to the mafia and they were obstructing the investigation.
On July 19, 1992 Paolo Borsellino was murdered by a car bomb, fifty-seven days after Falcone. The five police officers who were there to protect him were also killed.

Front page of Corriere della sera after the murder of Borsellino
Very sad is the story of Rita Atria, a girl from a mafia family who had worked with Borsellino as an informer. Because there was no-one left she could trust, she killed herself, she was only 22 years old.

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino are now seen as the front figures of the anti-mafia movement. It was their courage strength that inspired people to stand up against fear and intimidation.
Schools and public buildings are named after them, and there is a large monument near the airport of Palermo that is now called Falcone-Borsellino airport.

Their real legacy is their courage and the example they gave in their battle against the mafia. They are true role models, they and the other brave men who gave their lives in this battle.

Very incomplete list of people murdered by the mafia.
1979: Mario Francese, journalist
1979: Boris Guilliano, policeinspector
1979: Cesare Terranova, magistrate
1980: Piersanti Matterella: Christian Democratic politician who had started an investigation into corruption.
1980: Emanuele Basile, police inspector after Guilliano
1980 Gaetano Costa, magistrate
1982: Pio la Torre, leader communist party, made laws against the mafia
1982: Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, general of the Carabinieri
1983: Rocco Chinnici, magistrate after Terranova
1985 Antonio Cassera, police inspector
1992: Giovanni Falcone, magistrate
1992: Paolo Borsellino, magistrate
And all the brave bodyguards and policemen who died during their duty: trying to protect people against the mafia.


  1. I really enjoyed this post, being an avid fan of true crime. The mafia is something we always want to know more about but lack the information as such things are shrouded in secrecy. Very knowledgeable post - I've been enjoying this Mafia week.

    Bits & Bobs

    1. Thanks, Jade, that is good to hear. I really enjoyed writing the posts for this week and I think another 'theme week' will come some time in the future.

      Kind regards,


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