Top Naples policeman opposes protection for anti-Mafia author


HOW MUCH police protection does the best-selling anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano really need? That surprising question was posited this week by senior Naples policeman Vittorio Pisani, who in an interview with daily Corriere Della Seraseemed to suggest that Saviano did not really need an escort at all.

Since the publication three years ago of Saviano’s book Gomorrah, an exposé of the Neapolitan Camorra that was subsequently made into an award-winning film of the same name, Mafia investigators and Saviano (30) have claimed that his life is under threat from the Camorra.

The Neapolitan Mafia, it is claimed, would like to “eliminate” him by way of punishment for having lifted the lid on their grisly modus operandi.

Accordingly, Saviano has lived for most of the last three years with 24-hour police protection, guarded by a team of seven police bodyguards. Remarkably, in his interview, Pisani claims that his special investigations unit did not believe that Saviano required protection.

“Our unit was given the job of checking up on what Saviano had told us with regard to the threats on his life.

“Having checked things out, we gave a negative opinion on the need to grant him protection.”

Pisani claimed that the hype generated by the success of the book and film had had an “excessive media impact”.

“I find it very perplexing when I see all sorts of people with a police bodyguard, people who have done a lot less than many magistrates, policemen and journalists who have been fighting the Camorra for years. As for Gomorrah, it had an excessive media impact compared to the weight it carries for those of us who work in this field,” he said.

He also suggested that when it came to understanding organised crime, it was necessary to respect a certain (unspecified) “professional code of conduct”.

His words prompted immediate criticism from many quarters. Typical was this comment from senior Democratic Party figure Marco Minniti: “If you claim that the Mafia have professional ground rules, then you accept the false theory that we have a state and a Mafia anti-state . . . The Mafia don’t hesitate to kill children, passersby and to hide radioactive waste at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea.”

Responding to controversy generated by the interview, Italy’s head of police Antonio Manganelli pointed out that Saviano’s level of protection had not been reduced, rather it had been “reinforced”.

Mafia experts say the level of Saviano’s protection represents an expression of the seriousness with which the state wants to fight organised crime.

The Mafia would almost certainly interpret any indication that a particular prosecutor or policeman was being left to his or her own devices as an opportunity to “take out” that same figure.

Not for nothing, the 1992 Mafia killings of senior investigators Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino came at a moment when it appeared that both men had been, at least partially, abandoned by the state.

As for Saviano, he was reported in La Repubblicathis week as saying that he wanted to leave Italy in order to get away from the constraints of his lifestyle.