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Giovanni Falcone (May 18, 1939 – May 23, 1992) was an Italian magistrate who specialised in prosecuting the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. He was killed by the Mafia, together with his wife and three of his bodyguards, by a 350 kg dynamite explosion placed beneath the motorway from Palermo Airport to Palermo at the town of Capaci. His life story is quite similar to that of his closest friend Paolo Borsellino. Both shared provenance from a rather poor area of Palermo, had careers as Antimafia magistrates, and equally sad fates: both were killed (less than two months apart) in particularly audacious bomb attacks in 1992. In recognition of their efforts in the anti mafia trials, the pair were named as heroes of the last 60 years in the November 13, 2006 issue of Time Magazine. [1]

Early life

Falcone spent part of his youth in the Magione district in his native city Palermo, which suffered extensive destruction by aerial attacks during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. He was the son of Arturo Falcone, director of a provincial chemical laboratory, and Luisa Bentivegna. After a classical education, Giovanni studied law following a brief period of study at Livorno's naval academy. Graduating in 1961, he began to practice law before being appointed a judge in 1964. Falcone eventually gravitated toward penal law after serving as a district magistrate.[2]

Early career in criminal law

Shortly after the murder of judge Cesare Terranova, Falcone started to work for the investigative branch of the Prosecution Office (Ufficio istruzione) in Palermo. In May 1980, the chief of the office Rocco Chinnici appointed Falcone to investigate a major heroin-trafficking network headed by Rosario Spatola and Salvatore Inzerillo. From Sicily heroin was moved to the Gambino crime family in New York, who were related to the Inzerillos. The prosecuting judge Gaetano Costa who had signed the 53 arrest warrants against the heroin-trafficking network of the Spatola-Inzerillo-Gambino clan in May 1980, was murdered on August 6, 1980, on the orders of Inzerillo.

Falcone introduced an innovative investigative technique, following "the money trail", to build his case. Subsequently, he became part of Palermo's Antimafia Pool, created by judge Rocco Chinnici. The Antimafia pool was a group of investigating magistrates who closely worked together sharing information to diffuse responsibility and to prevent one person from becoming the sole institutional memory and solitary target. Next to Falcone the group consisted of Paolo Borsellino, Giuseppe Di Lello and Leonardo Guarnotta.[3]

The Maxi Trial

The Antimafia pool laid the groundwork for the Maxi Trial against the Sicilian Mafia at the preliminary investigative phase. After Chinnici’s murder in July 1983, his successor Antonino Caponnetto headed the pool. Falcone was one of the major organizers of the trial that began February 10, 1986 and finished December 16, 1987. Of 474 Mafiosi members originally charged, 360 were convicted of serious crimes, including 119 in absentia. One of the most important factors in the trial was the testimony of Tommaso Buscetta, one of the first ever Sicilian mafiosi to become an informant (pentito). It was Falcone to whom Buscetta preferred to speak when giving up the secrets of the Mafia, as Buscetta later claimed that, whilst other magistrates and detectives patronized him, Falcone treated him with respect. During 1988 Falcone collaborated with Rudolph Giuliani, at the time U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in the operations against the Gambino and Inzerillo families.


Sheets exposed in solidarity with Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. They read: "You did not kill them: their ideas walk on our legs".

Falcone was killed with his wife Francesca Morvillo (herself a magistrate) and three policemen: Rocco Di Cillo, Antonio Montinaro, Vito Schifani, in Capaci on the motorway between Palermo International Airport and the city of Palermo (38°10′58″N 13°14′41″E) on May 23, 1992. The armored Fiat Croma in which he was travelling was blown up by a bomb (350 kg of explosive) that had been placed in trenches dug by the side of the road. When passing over the bomb, Falcone was driving his car at an estimated speed of nearly 100 mph (160 km/h.) The murder was organized by Salvatore Riina in revenge for Falcone's conviction of dozens of mobsters in the Maxi-Trials. In the major crackdown against the Mafia following Falcone and Borsellino's deaths, Riina was arrested and is now serving a life sentence for sanctioning the murders of both magistrates as well as many other crimes. Another mafioso convicted of the murder of Falcone is Giovanni Brusca, one of Riina's associates who admitted to being the one who actually detonated the explosives. Palermo airport is now also known by the name Falcone-Borsellino Airport in honor of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. A memorial by local sculptor Tommaso Geraci can be found there. [4] [5]


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