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Mafia boss Pietro Aglieri, "'U Signurinu"

Pietro Aglieri (Palermo, June 6, 1959) was a powerful mafioso from the Guadagna neighbourhood in Palermo. He is known as "'U Signurinu" (The Little Gentleman) for his relatively sophisticated education and refined manners. He had a classical education and studied Greek, Latin, philosophy, history and literature to a level that guaranteed him entry to university. Instead he chose for a career in Cosa Nostra. The British journal The Guardian listed him as the emerging man of the year 1995 in Italy.


Mafia career

Aglieri was a loyal supporter of the Corleonesi clan of Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano during the Second Mafia War. He gained Riina's favour by killing relatives of a rival Mafia bosses. He became the boss of the Santa Maria di Gesù Mafia family after Giovanni Bontade – the brother of Stefano Bontade – was killed in 1988. Although active since the early 1980s, his name was not brought to prosecutors' attention until 1989.[1]

As member of the Sicilian Mafia Commission, Aglieri was being tried in absentia for the 1992 bombing deaths of Italy's two top Mafia investigators, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.[1] He received a life sentence for the murder on judge Antonino Scopelliti on August 9, 1991, who was killed while preparing the final sentence for the Maxi Trial for the Court of Cassation. He was also on trial for the 1992 murder of Salvo Lima, a Sicilian politician with close links to Giulio Andreotti, the former premier accused of Mafia association.

After the arrest of Riina in January 1993, Aglieri started to support Provenzano’s new less violent mafia strategy. The new guidelines were patience, compartmentalisation, coexistence with state institutions, and systematic infiltration of public finance. The diplomatic Provenzano tried to stem the flow of pentiti by not targeting their families, only using violence in case of absolute necessity.[2]

On June 6, 1997, Aglieri was arrested in a disused lemon warehouse in the dilapidated industrial area Bagheria together with his lieutenants, Natale Gambino and Giuseppe La Mattina. It took the authorities almost a year to locate him following the arrest of his right-hand man Carlo Greco. Apparently, Giovanni Brusca, a Riina loyalist arrested in May 1996, helped police identify Aglieri. He had been on the run since 1989.[1]


Arrest of Mafia boss Pietro Aglieri on June 6, 1997.

On March 28, 2002, Pietro Aglieri wrote a letter to the National Anti-mafia Prosecutor (DNA), Pierluigi Vigna and the Chief Prosecutor of Palermo, Pietro Grasso to ask for negotiations. His proposal was that mafiosi would get more lenient penalties (in particular the relaxation of the 41-bis prison regime) in return for recognizing the existence of Cosa Nostra and the authority of the Italian state.[3]

Aglieri had been approached by Vigna in February 2000 in an attempt to get mafiosi to "dissociate" from Cosa Nostra — without becoming collaborators of justice — a method that was used successfully in the struggle against the Red Brigades. Ex-Red Brigades members could publicly recognise their errors without having to admit their own criminal responsibilities.[4][5]

Aglieri proposed a meeting of the Sicilian Mafia Commission in a jail somewhere in Italy to convince Totò Riina to agree with the Mafia's surrender and to hand over the Mafia's armoury. Other bosses like Giuseppe "Piddu" Madonia, Nitto Santapaola, Pippo Calò and Giuseppe Farinella appeared to agree.[6][7]

Vigna also approached the mafiosi Piddu Madonia, Giuseppe Farinella and Salvatore Buscemi. Vigna’s covert attempts were controversial and were made public by a mole in the DNA. They were definitively frustrated when the centre-left government of Massimo D'Alema resigned on April 25, 2000. Minister of Justice, Oliviero Diliberto, was replaced with Piero Fassino who stopped the negotiations.

Aglieri's letter in March 2002 was followed by the statements of Leoluca Bagarella during a court appearance in July 2002 in which he suggested that unnamed politicians had failed to maintain agreements with the Mafia over prison conditions. That seemed to make an end to try to convince mafiosi to "dissociate" from the Mafia, not only because of resistance in the judiciary and the Anti-mafia movement, but also because of a rift within Cosa Nostra. [8]

Devout catholic

Inside Aglieri’s hide out a little chapel was discovered after his arrest, a clear signal of his devoutness to the Catholic Church. The priest Mario Frittitta admitted in 1997 meeting Pietro Aglieri and celebrating Mass for him and his men on Christmas 1996 and Easter 1997 at the hideout.[9] Father Frittitta told a court that he tried to persuade Aglieri to turn himself in, but not to testify against others. After his arrest Aglieri announced he wanted to study theology – but a leading Sicilian bishop refused him permission. Nevertheless, Aglieri started to study Church History with the La Sapienza University in Rome while staying the Rebibbia prison.

In an interview with La Repubblica in March 2004, he said to prefer the harsh incarceration regime of 41-bis over being a collaborator of justice.


  1. ^ a b c Mafia's rising star arrested in dawn raid, The Independent, June 7, 1997.
  2. ^ Longrigg, Boss of Bosses, p. 80
  3. ^ (Italian) "Pronti a sciogliere Cosa Nostra", La Repubblica, April 17, 2002.
  4. ^ Cosa Nostra bosses provoke outrage with plea bargain offer, The Independent, June 10, 2000
  5. ^ (Italian) Quando Vigna tentò di far dissociare i mafiosi, Il Velino, April 26, 2001.
  6. ^ (Italian) La mafia tratta la resa: "Vi daremo gli arsenali", La Repubblica, June 8, 2000
  7. ^ (Italian) I boss in carcere trattano la resa, La Repubblica, February 2, 2001
  8. ^ (Italian) "Previti e Dell'Utri nel mirino", La Repubblica, September 7, 2002.
  9. ^ Italy Mafia Priest, BBC News, November 4, 1997
  • Dickie, John (2004). Cosa Nostra. A history of the Sicilian Mafia, London: Coronet ISBN 0-340-82435-2
  • Jamieson, Alison (2000). The Antimafia. Italy’s fight against organized crime, London: MacMillan Press Ltd ISBN 0-333-80158-X
  • Longrigg, Clare (2008). Boss of Bosses. How Bernardo Provenzano saved the Mafia, London: John Murray ISBN 978-0-7195-6849-7
  • Biography in Italian


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