The assassination of Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in Palermo on May 23 1992 was a turning point in the war againt the Sicilian Mafia.
Falcone was assassinated in a car bomb explosion, after the Italian Supreme Court had confirmed the convictions of top Mafia Bosses in the most successful Italian Mob Prosecution of the time dubbed, the ‘Maxi Trial’.
Sicilian Boss, Salvatore Riina viewed Falcone’s triumph as ‘Humiliation’ and ordered a hit. On 23 May 1992, a bomb planted on the Parlemo Highway used by Falcone to travel to his home from the Airport exploded killing Falcone and his entourage.
This murder sparked outrage, and eventually the Assassins were arrested and convicted.
More importantly, the Mafia’s last ditch effort to coerce the Italian State by intimidating the public after the Maxi Trial convictions was an ill-fated gamble because it forced the Italian State to come down even heavier on the Mafia due to the massive public outcry caused by the Falcone assassination as well as the Italian State’s own need to prove that it was in control of the Italian State and not the Mafia.
As a result, the Mafia faced even more Prosecutions and a decline in its Power in its home base followed, as the Italian State took stern measures to regain control and restore public confidence.
In short, things were never the same again for the Mob in Sicily after the assassination of Falcone.
The Falcone affair essentially forced the Italian State and all other Countries plagued by Organised Crime to confront the issue more directly. It was now clear exactly how far the Mafia was willing to go to preserve its position.
The murder of a State Official was a step too far and a terrible strategic mistake on the part of the Mafia.
The Government simply could not be seen as failing to exert control, and as such, its hand to move against the Mafia more vigorously was forced by the Mafia’s decision to assassinate Falcone.
Consequently, to this day, the murder of State Officials is no longer Mafia strategy because the Falcone assassination made the Mob realise that it did not want to incite a war against the Government, and that if it did, it could never win such a war.
Sadly, 57 days after Falcone’s death, another leading anti-mafia Prosecutor, Paolo Borsellino was also killed in a Mafia Car bomb hit.
Meanwhile in the Mafia’s American base, events unfolding in New York would spell the end of the ‘old days’ for the Mob.
The death of Carlo Gambino had sparked tension in the Gambino Family leading to the assassination of Gambino’s appointed successor, Paul Castellano by John Gotti who then took control of the Family.
Coupled with efforts made by the FBI led by Prosecutor Rudi Giuliani (Who would later become the Mayor of New York) to build a landmark case under the RICO statute against the New York Mob’s top leadership, the temperature was rising for the Mob on all fronts, and things would never be the same again.