Benedetto Capizzi (28 June 1944 – 12 September 2023) was an Italian mobster and a prominent figure in the Sicilian Mafia. Originating from the Villagrazia area in Palermo, he was nominated to be the head of the new Sicilian Mafia Commission.
Life and Criminal Career
Early Life and Rise in Mafia
Capizzi was born on 28 June 1944 in the Villagrazia area of Palermo, Sicily. Over the years, he climbed the ranks within the Sicilian Mafia to become a boss.
On 16 December 2008, Capizzi was among 94 Mafiosi arrested in “Operation Perseus” (Perseo in Italian). This operation was aimed at thwarting the reconstitution of a new Mafia Commission following the arrests of Mafia bosses Bernardo Provenzano, Antonio Rotolo, and Salvatore Lo Piccolo in 2006 and 2007. The goal, as stated by one of the Mafiosi, was to “re-establish Cosa Nostra” in the old style, with a single all-powerful boss, a “capo di capi.”
Capizzi had been nominated as the possible head of this new Commission. Among the other members were historical Cosa Nostra bosses like Gerlando Alberti, Gregorio Agrigento from San Giuseppe Jato, Giovanni Lipari, Gaetano Fidanzati, Giuseppe Scaduto from Bagheria, and Salvatore Lombardo, the 87-year-old boss from Montelepre. Many of those arrested had been released from prison on health grounds and were under house arrest.
Controversy and Mafia Wars
When news of Capizzi’s nomination reached Gaetano Lo Presti, the appointed boss of the Porta Nuova area of Palermo, he questioned the decision, asking, “Who authorized this?” This reflected a potential power struggle within the organization and sparked fears of a new round of “Mafia wars” on the streets of Sicily. These concerns expedited the police operation, resulting in 94 arrests. Lo Presti, whose careless telephone conversations led to the operation, hanged himself in his prison cell shortly after being arrested.
Legal Troubles and Imprisonment
In 2010, after Gaspare Spatuzza turned informant, Capizzi was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo.
Capizzi died on 12 September 2023, at the age of 79.
Benedetto Capizzi’s life serves as a window into the complex and often brutal world of organized crime in Italy, particularly within the Sicilian Mafia. His attempts to ascend to the role of “capo di capi” and the subsequent police operations against him highlight the ongoing struggles for power within these criminal organizations.