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All charges have been dropped against two alleged Sicilian Mafia leaders accused of bid-rigging and extortion for contracts at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, according to Italian press reports.

The two alleged leaders, reputed Catania Cosa Nostra boss Nitto Santapaola and Eugenio Galea, who allegedly planned the operation, faced the charges for contracts on base between 1987 and 1993, according to the newspaper La Sicilia.

Under an Italian operation code-named “Saigon,” 47 people were arrested in 1997, including a British civilian working at the base Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (ROICC) office.

The case against Santapaola and Galea, according to La Sicilia, relied on testimony of two mobsters who had been given new identities and immunity against prosecution — similar to the U.S. witness relocation program. However, the evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict either Santapaola or Galea, the paper reported.

The original charges stated that, for a number of years, Mafia-influenced companies had virtually every on-base construction contract. In 1998, a U.S. federal court document showed that those companies merged to form a group that bid, and won, a five-year janitorial contract.

According to a 2002 U.S. Court of Appeals decision concerning a challenge to the awarding of that contract, at least part of the group was controlled by another Mafia leader, Carmelo La Mastra.

The document also states that an Italian court had found that La Mastra “had engaged in bid-rigging and was involved in a Mafia organization in connection with previous contracts at the Sigonella base, apparently in the early 1990s.”

Also, in 2004, Italian anti-Mafia police arrested seven Italians, including a ROICC building inspector, on suspicion of using threats to win on-base building contracts.


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