Pentito reveals: “La Barbera’s meetings in the basement”

(from correspondent Elvira Terranova)

The former director of the Palermo Flying Squad Arnaldo La Barbera, who died in 2002, “in the early nineties was at the disposal of the Madonia mafia family. My uncle Pino Galatolo met him several times, alone, in a basement in Vicolo Pipitone” The revelation comes halfway through the hearing of the appeal process on the misdirection of the Via D’Amelio massacre, when, for the first time, the justice collaborator Vito Galatolo, former ‘picciotto’ of the Acquasanta mafia family, heard, in video link, speaks of an alleged meeting “in a basement” between the uncle, the mafia boss Giuseppe Galatolo and the former head of Mobile and then Police Commissioner Arnaldo La Barbera. The three find themselves in the dock again before the Court of Appeal of Caltanissetta policemen from the ”Falcone and Borsellino” group accused of complicity in slander aggravated by having facilitated Cosa Nostra. The prosecution is represented by the deputy general prosecutors Antonino Patti and Gaetano Bono. The prosecutor Maurizio Bonaccorso was also applied by the prosecutor , who represented the prosecution in the first instance, after the farewell of Stefano Luciani and Gabriele Paci, who went to Rome and Trapani respectively. In the first degree sentence, issued on 12 July 2022, the aggravating mafia charge was dropped for two of the three policemen accused in the Borsellino misdirection trial: the crimes were prescribed for Mario Bo and Fabrizio Mattei, while Michele Ribaudo was acquitted. The policeman Ribaudo was acquitted “because the fact does not constitute a crime”. They were all accused of complicity in slander aggravated by having favored Cosa Nostra.

Galatolo has repeatedly reiterated that he saw La Barbera “in vicolo Pipitone”, the place in Acquasanta where mafia bosses met in the 1980s and 1990s. But he had never talked about the meetings “in the basement” between his uncle, under house arrest, and La Barbera. The policeman was head of the investigative group that investigated the mafia massacres, which included the three policemen now accused. The General Prosecutor’s Office attempts to demonstrate that Arnaldo La Barbera would have sidetracked the investigations into Via D’Amelio to favor Cosa Nostra. The repentant Galatolo, in his deposition, confirmed via videoconference what another collaborator, Francesco Onorato, had already said at the last hearing: “Salvatore Biondino had ordered me to kill La Barbera, but then the order was withdrawn, precisely because that policeman was close to the Madonias”, he said. Already in the first instance Onorato and Galatolo had repeated these declarations but the judges of the court had considered them generic and without corroboration. Now the Attorney General has requested and obtained to hear the two collaborators again.

“When I was a sentry in Vicolo Pipitone, in our hideout, until shortly before the massacres of ’92, I remember that members of the institutions also came. I remember that there was a Carabinieri sergeant, who was on the family’s payroll of Acquasanta. It was he who warned us of things that were happening. Giovanni Aiello ‘monster face’ also came to us. It was my uncle Giuseppe Galatolo who said who he was and that Aiello worked for the State. But until I collaborated I didn’t I knew who he was, we called him ‘monster face’ because he scared us,” he continued. Giovanni Aiello was a former policeman of the Palermo Flying Squad with a past in the services, known in the news as “Monster Face” and ended up at the center of some controversial events. He died of a heart attack in 2017.

‘Monster Face came to visit my uncle under house arrest’

Giovanni Aiello was registered in the register of suspects in 2015 with the bosses Gaetano Scotto and Salvino Madonia. For the mafia leaders, the prosecutor’s office had requested that the case be dismissed, but the judge rejected the request, ordering new investigations including the confrontation between the victim’s father and Aiello. “Monster Face”, a secret service official active in Palermo in the 1980s, until the great massacres of 1992, was recognized in February 2016 by Vincenzo Agostino, father of the Palermo policeman, Antonino, killed with his wife Ida Castellucci on August 5, 1989. “It’s him, he’s the one who’s looking at me,” Agostino would have said, who has never cut his beard since the day of his son’s murder. The former secret agent would be the one who was seen near his home before the crime. On leaving Agostino confirmed that he recognized him “even though he was well made up”. Giovanni Aiello “was part of the deviant secret services. I saw him several times in Vicolo Pipitone, in Acqusanta. He often came in the period between ’84 and ’85, until Madonia’s arrest”, he then added Galatolo.

Then, Galatolo also mentioned other representatives of the institutions who allegedly associated with the Acqusanta mafia family. “Bruno Contrada also came. Then there were people who came to look for fugitives, two policemen came, Agostino and Piazza, who came to look for those who came in and out. Our job as sentries was to warn them and make them escape.” In particular, speaking of Arnaldo La Barbera, Galatolo underlines that “he came several times to Vicolo Pipitone in Palermo, when my uncle Giuseppe Galatolo was under house arrest”. “On two occasions, my uncle Giuseppe went to talk to La Barbera in a cellar. He came in the evening and not during the day. One of these times he entered the alley and one of my cousins ​​signaled him to go forward but he did understand that he already knew where he had to go. In my family they said that La Barbera was someone who ‘ate worse than the others'”. Barbera was at the disposal of Acquasanta and the Madonia district”, he continued.

And he remembered the death of the young Girolamo Fasone, who died in 1991 while attempting a robbery in the beauty center where La Barbera was located at the time. And the attempt to kill La Barbera, an attempt which however was blocked by the leaders of Cosa Nostra. “In 1991, after Arnaldo La Barbera killed my friend Mimmo Fasone in the robbery in the beauty center, we wanted to give him a beating, we wanted to punish him but we were blocked. They told us not to think about it completely. Because Madonia cared to him”. “I remember that Mimmo Fasone was a smart guy. Between 22 and 23 December ’91 we exchanged Christmas greetings then, in early January ’92, this thing happened: he was killed by Doctor La Barbera” , Galatolo said. At the time La Barbera was the director of the Flying Squad.

‘After Fasone’s death there was a lot of anger’

“When the newspaper published the news that Arnaldo La Barbera had killed Mimmo Fasone there was a lot of anger, because in any case a young boy had been killed. And people started saying ‘go and break the horns’ of this La Barbera. We said ‘ but how dare he kill this boy?’. But then my cousin Angelo and my uncles said it couldn’t be done because Madonia cared about him.”

There was no shortage of moments of tension between the repentant Vito Galatolo and the lawyer Giuseppe Seminara, lawyer of the policemen Fabrizio Mattei and Michele Ribaudo. The lawyer challenged the collaborator’s statements that differed from those made in the first instance trial. And Galatolo has complained several times. President Giovambattista Tona took back both the defender and the collaborator, the lawyer Seminara replied: “President, Mr. Galatolo and I are not on the same level, I am the lawyer”. In particular, the lawyer accused the repentant of having changed his version about the decision to kill Arnaldo La Barbera. At first instance he had said that the stop had come from his uncle Giuseppe Galatolo “who was under house arrest”. Today, however, he reiterated that his uncle was “in prison”. After the protest, he said: “I got confused, but I confirm what I said today. At that moment my uncle was in prison. And from there came the ban on killing La Barbera.”

At the beginning of the hearing, the repentant Galatolo recalled his criminal escalation, explaining that he had started being part of Cosa Nostra “since he was a child”. “I was ‘combined’ in the Pagliarelli prison in 2010, while I was a prisoner. At the time the head of the district Rosario Lo Bue was in charge of Corleone. We were all in prison. Already at the age of 11 I was a ‘sentinel’ in Vicolo Pipitone in Palermo, to see if police cars were arriving. It was our hideout. As children we were always available. In our family there was no need for me to become a man of honor to rule the family”, he said. “I was the head of the district of Resuttana which includes the mafia families of Acquasanta, Arenella and Vergine Maria – he said – In my family we were family by blood but also family and by Cosa Nostra. My uncle, Giuseppe Galatolo was an open book, if he had been for him we could be men of honor even at 15 years old. We did everything. Weapons were hidden in the Pipitone alley, then in 1990 we knew who was paying the extortion, we had interests in the fruit and vegetable market, in the shipyards.” At the end of the hearing, after 8pm, the collaborator apologized to the President of the Court, Giovambasstita Tona, for his behavior during the deposition. “President, I apologize, but what I understand is that the lawyers know that I’m a little bit bubbly and they do it on purpose to make me angry”, he commented. The next hearing will be held on January 30, to hear the former police official Gioacchino Genchi.