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Mafia 'beast' acquitted of Mattei journalist murder

Toto' Riina 'did not order De Mauro assassination'

27 January, 18:37
Mafia 'beast' acquitted of Mattei journalist murder (ANSA) - Palermo, January 27 - A Palermo appeals court on Monday acquitted the bloodiest-ever jailed Cosa Nostra boss for the murder of an investigative journalist believed to have been killed because he knew too much about the Mob assassination of maverick oil chief Enrico Mattei.

Salvatore 'the Beast' Riina was first acquitted in June 2011 after a five-year trial.

Former prosecutor Antonio Ingroia, who had requested a further life term for the onetime 'boss of bosses', appealed against the acquittal, and the second-level trial began last April.

Prosecutors who have taken over from Ingroia, who has since become a lawyer after an abortive foray into leftwing politics, are now expected to appeal to the court of last instance, the supreme Court of Cassation. Riina was captured in 1993 and is already serving several life sentences for crimes including the 1992 assassinations of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

According to Ingroia, Riina and two other 'cupola' members decided to eliminate the "courageous and troublesome" journo Mauro De Mauro in September 1970 because he was about to go public about Mattei's murder eight years earlier, in a 1962 plane crash in northern Italy.

There was also a second reason to get rid of De Mauro, Ingroia argued.

Thanks to wartime Fascist connections, Ingroia said, the journalist had uncovered plans to stage a Mafia-backed far-right coup d'etat in December that year.

"The death sentence on De Mauro was passed because of a convergence of two elements," Ingroia said.

De Mauro went missing from the street outside his Palermo home on September 16, 1970, while doing research for Francesco Rosi's landmark movie, 'Il Caso Mattei' (The Mattei Case).

Italy's best-known Mafia informant, the late Tommaso Buscetta, claimed the headline-grabbing boss of State fuels group ENI was killed to stop him treading on the toes of the so-called Seven Sisters of world oil.

Mattei is known to have angered the world's biggest oil companies by forging deals in North Africa, Russia and Iran that aimed to make Italy independent of them.

An investigation into the plane crash concluded it had been caused by a technical fault but another probe, 30 years later, said a bomb had exploded on board.

"De Mauro was very busy piecing together the elements of the plot, and his death stopped it being uncovered" Ingroia told the court.

"The other 'convergent' element in his death was the fact that he knew, from its inception, about the subversive project involving spies, neofascists and Mafia groups" to put together the so-called 'Borghese Coup', the prosecutor went on.

"From his sources in neofascist circles, from his past in Prince Junio Valerio Borghese's crack 'X Mas' WWII unit, as well as from tip-offs from Mafia boss Emanuele D'Agostino, he knew something was in the offing".

According to Mafia turncoats, the coup was aborted at the last minute after key establishment figures withdrew their support.

De Mauro went missing after telling friends he had "news that (would) shake the world".

This is believed to have been the scoops on Mattei's death and the Borghese coup plans.

Ingroia has said investigations had unearthed an "institutional cover-up" in the initial probe into De Mauro's disappearance.

A probe into these alleged cover-ups is stull under way.

Riina's successor until his arrest in 2006, Bernardo Provenzano, is under investigation in a separate probe into the murder.

De Mauro's body was never found. Various informants have told police about alleged burial sites but bodies recovered from them have not matched the journalist's DNA.