Salvatore Riina – Sentenced to life in prison 26 times. Responsible for about 150 assassinations in the 80s and 90s, including those of two leading Mafia members. The brain behind a series of bombings. Salvatore “Toto” Riina. He died in prison yesterday, only a day after his 87th birthday.
Mafia leader Riina was considered the capo di tutti capi, the boss of all bosses.
Riina was the boss of the Cosa Nostra in the 80’s, the Sicilian mafia. Originally he came from the village of Corleone, in the middle of Sicily. (The village also gave its name to the main Mafia family from the movie The Godfather).
At the age of nineteen, he committed his first murder to become part of the Mafia. With the help of Bernardo Provenzano, he gained more and more power in the region. This happened mainly by killing gang members of rival clans. In the early 80s, a real Mafia war raged between the clan from Corleone and gangs from Palermo.
This was eventually won by the Corleonesi, the clan of which Riina was the undisputed leader, partly because he had all his allies killed. Because of his violent behavior, Riina got the nickname The Beest.
Riina not only had other Mafiosi killed, he also attacked the Italian authorities. For example, in 1982 general Alberto Dalla Chiesa was murdered in Palermo by order of Riina. Armed men on motorcycles fired at the general.
Ten years later, Italy was shocked when, on May 23, 1992, judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife, and three bodyguards were blown up by a 500-pound bomb in their white Fiat under a highway just outside Palermo.
Two months later, Paolo Borsellino, a close friend of Falcone, was killed by a car bomb along with five of his bodyguards. Both attacks were carried out on behalf of Riina. As a result of the attacks on the judges, the Italian people increasingly turned against the Mafia.
For 23 years Riina managed to stay out of the hands of the police. In January 1993 he was finally arrested while waiting for a traffic light in Palermo. The chubby Riina, who was dressed in a poorly fitted suit, declared in vain that he was an accountant. The capo di tutti capi was tipped off by his former driver.
A very strict prison regime applied to Salvatore Riina. He stayed in complete isolation and was not allowed to have contact with his family. The last days an exception was made because Riina’s death was imminent and he was kept in a coma. Yesterday his relatives were allowed to say goodbye to him in a strictly guarded prison hospital.