ROME – The president of the Italian Senate revealed Saturday that the Mafia’s “boss of bosses” allegedly had targeted him to be assassinated next after twin bomb blasts killed Italy’s two leading Sicilian magistrates.
Senate President Piero Grasso served as a judge for the Mafia trial in the 1980s that yielded convictions for hundreds of mobsters. Among them was top Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina, then a fugitive who was tried in absentia.
Grasso told La Stampa newspaper in an interview that Mafia turncoats had revealed that Riina, who died Friday at age 87 in the prison ward of an Italian hospital, ordered a hit on him in 1992.
Investigators have said Riina commanded the Mafia during 23 years on the run. , Grasso said the mob boss targeted him after prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed by bomb attacks two months apart that year.
The alleged plot called for Grasso to be killed by a remotely detonated bomb in Monreale, Sicily, where he frequently visited family, the Senate president said.
Grasso recounted that a nearby bank’s alarm system interfered with the bomb’s timer and so the assassination attempt was abandoned.
“There was the danger that the bomb would explode when it shouldn’t have,” Grasso said. “Then, in January (1993), Riina was captured, and that’s why I’m here today to recount you this.”
Riina was serving 26 life sentences when he died. He was convicted of some 100 murders, many of them masterminded by him to eliminate rival Mafia bosses, according to prosecutors.
Before his 1993 capture, he also targeted police investigators, prosecutors and others who were cracking down on the Sicilian crime syndicate.
His widow, Antonina Bagarella, arrived Saturday in Parma, a city in northern Italy, where an autopsy was performed on her late husband. Other family members came to the morgue for the autopsy required for prison inmates. Daughter Maria Concetta shooed away journalists who tried to speak with her.
The Roman Catholic archbishop of the diocese that includes Riina’s Sicilian hometown of Corleone has ruled out a church funeral Mass for the late crime kingpin, calling him a “public sinner.” However, he left open the possibility for a private prayer service in the Corleone cemetery.
A sister of slain prosecutor Falcone hailed the decision to prohibit a public funeral service. Maria Falcone told reporters at an event in Milan Saturday that along with a trail of bloodshed, Riina “leaves so many secrets he didn’t want to reveal.”
“I don’t rejoice over Toto Riina’s death, but I don’t forgive him,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Falcone as saying, “because he never asked to be forgiven.”
Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio