Dozens of mafia dons could be released in Italy over fears they could catch coronavirus in jail, it has emerged.
Three mob bosses from the infamous Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndrangheta clans have already been allowed to leave jail, and are now under house arrest. All releases have been due to concerns regarding the inmates’ health conditions.
On Wednesday, a judge in Milan ordered 78-year-old Francesco Bonuro, a Cosa Nostra boss, to serve his sentence at home.
The mobster will be allowed to attend health appointments despite still having years to serve on his 23-year sentence.
Bonuro was one of several Sicilian mobsters convicted for mafia association during Palermo’s landmark Maxi trial in 1992. The trial was the largest ever court proceeding against the mob and several judges were executed in the six years it ran.
78-year-old Cosa Nostra boss, Francesco Bonura (left), was released from jail in Milan yesterday. Bonuro, who was convicted in Sicily’s landmark Maxi trial, will serve his sentence at home amid fears that if he catches the coronavirus, he could die. Vincenzino Iannazzo (right), 65, the head of the Lamezia Terme ‘Ndrangheta clan, who was serving a 14 years and six months sentence, has also been placed under house arrest
Security officials prepare for the transfer of 60 prisoners from Melfi prison to other penitentiaries in Italy, after the 9 March revolt, which was triggered by the coronavirus lockdown, in Melfi, Potenza, Italy, 17 March 2020
Rocco Santo Filippone, 72, a boss who was tried in the early 1990s ‘Ndrangheta Massacre’ trial for the murder of two Carabinieri officers, has been spared the remainder of his stint in jail because he suffers from a cardiovascular disease that could prove fatal if he were infected with Covid-19.
Vincenzino Iannazzo, 65, the head of the Lamezia Terme clan, who was serving a 14 years and six months sentence, has also been placed under house arrest.
Rocco Santo Filippone: The bloodsoaked mafia ‘Monk’
Pictured: Rocco Santo Fillippone, boss of one of the most feared ‘Ndrangheta clans in Calabria
Prosecutors allege that Rocco Santo Filippone is a boss of the Piromalli gang, one of the most feared clans of the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria.
The gang took hold of the Gioia Tauro port in the mid 90s, using it to traffic illegal goods and drugs.
Fillipone earned his nickname for his ‘confidentiality’, according to reports.
He was jailed for ordering his ruthless grandson to kill two Carabinieri officers Antonino Fava and Vincenzo Garofalo on January 18, 1994.
Judges have weighed up the chances of the veteran gangsters escaping and said it will be impossible for them to leave the house or meet others, unless for ‘health reasons.
‘It is a very alarming situation,’ Leo Beneduci, secretary general of Osapp, Italy’s largest prison police officers’ union, told the Guardian. ‘Members of the penitentiary police have begun reporting detainees who embrace each other with the alleged goal of increasing the possibility of contracting the virus and getting released from prison.’
According to an internal memo seen by the Guardian there are 74 high-profile dons whose ages and health conditions make them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The septuagenarians, all currently held under the 41-bis protocols which can suspend certain prison regulations by ministerial decree, include bosses of the Bellocco clan of the ’Ndrangheta and the Sicilian ‘boss of bosses’ Nitto Santapaola.
Italian Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede, said the government had not approved the releases.
‘The risk is that we’ll find the mafia virus on the streets alongside Covid-19,’ Lirio Abbate, journalist and national editor of L’Espresso, told the Guardian.
‘It would be a double pandemic that we mustn’t allow to happen.’
It comes days after anti-mafia author Roberto Saviano, who wrote the script for Italian crime drama Gomorrah, claimed the Mafia is handing out food to Italy’s needy and offering interest-free loans to impose control over people’s lives and capitalise on the country’s coronavirus crisis.
Saviano told journalists that at the most basic level, the mob is handing out groceries to the poorest Italians to ensure favours once the crisis is over.
He added they are also preparing to snatch up struggling businesses as the country awaits European funding to boost its battered economy.
Saviano, who is currently under police protection in New York after the release of the series, is an expert on mafia groups and how they have successfully expanded beyond drugs and other illegal activity to worm their way into otherwise legitimate businesses and sectors across the world.
His fears have been echoed by both anti-mafia investigators and politicians as the virus batters Italy.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis slammed ‘the mafiosi and the loan sharks’ who are exploiting the pandemic to make a quick profit.