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Belfast Telegraph Home > News

Plot thickens as Mafia godmothers muscle in on crime caper film set

By Peter Popham

15 July 2004

The plot of 'Ocean's Twelve' was intricate enough already. But when filming moved to Trapani, in the Mafia-ridden western extreme of Sicily, it became substantially more complicated.

Because according to Sicilian police, the fictional criminals from Hollywood fell prey to the real Sicilian article.

As disclosed by the town's flying squad this week, so determined were the Mafiosi of Castellamare del Golfo to extract their customary "pizzo" or protection money from the people working on the film, whether actors or technicians, American or locally hired, police had to mount guard day and night on the cliffs, beaches and crashing surf in the natural paradise where the location scenes were being shot.

The work wasn't all tedium, however. "The police," according to Livio Abbate in La Stampa, "were as a result the only spectators, and non-paying at that, able to observe the graces of Catherine Zeta-Jones as she took a midnight dip in the sea."

Like its predecessor, 'Ocean's Twelve' concerns the complicated criminal high jinks of gang leader Danny Ocean (George Clooney), who rounds up his accomplices (including his reignited flame Tess, played by Julia Roberts) to carry out more enormous robberies.

The surveillance of the film crew earlier this month came at the culmination of a year's police work by the Trapani investigators, aimed at cracking a classic Mafia extortion racket in Trapani. It's the type of racket that is ubiquitous on the island, and from whose grasp nobody is immune.

In raids at dawn on Tuesday, 23 people were arrested. They include well-known local gangsters, as well as a commander of the Vigili Urbani, the local police force. Local victims of extortion include fishermen and pleasure boat operators.

One novel twist: the most senior of the gangsters arrested, police say, were two women, one of whom, Antonella Maria di Graziano (45) is the acting head of the Castellamare del Golfo clan.

In the past, Mafia wives always remained in the background, but since the incarceration of a large number of Mafia capi, they have taken increasingly active roles in the gangs' "work".

Police say they got negligible support from victims - an indication of the fear and complicity the Mafia continue to provoke. ( Independent News Service)

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