Giovanni Brusca (born May 20, 1957 in San Giuseppe Jato) is a former member of the Sicilian Mafia. He murdered the anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in 1992 and once stated that he had committed between 100 and 200 murders but was unable to remember the exact number. He was sentenced to life in prison in absentia, captured in 1996 and started to cooperate with the authorities. A podgy, bearded and unkempt mafioso, Brusca was known in Mafia circles as "U' Verru" (in Sicilian) or Il Porco or Il Maiale, (In Italian: The Pig, The Swine) or "lo scannacristiani" (people-slayer; in Italian dialects the word "christians" often stands for "humans"). Tommaso Buscetta, the Mafia turncoat who had cooperated with Falcone’s investigations, remembered Giovanni Brusca as "a wild stallion but a great leader."
Born in San Giuseppe Jato, Giovanni Brusca seems to have been predestined for a life in Cosa Nostra. His grandfather and great-grandfather, both farmers, were made members of the Mafia. His father Bernardo Brusca, a local Mafia patriarch, served concurrent life sentences for numerous homicides. Bernardo Brusca allied himself with the Corleonesi of Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano when he replaced Antonio Salamone as capo mandamento of San Giuseppe Jato, paving the way for his three sons’ careers – apart from Giovanni, his younger brother Vincenzo and elder brother Emanuele – in Cosa Nostra's most powerful and ruthless clan. By the age of 20, Brusca was reportedly working as a driver for Bernardo Provenzano. "All the pentiti have described him as a kind of butcher with a lot of instinct and little charisma," says longtime Mafia observer Francesco La Licata, a journalist working for La Stampa newspaper. Giovanni Brusca became part of a Corleonesi death squad which reported directly to Riina. He became capo mandamento of San Giuseppe Jato after the arrest of his father in 1989.
Nothing better demonstrated Brusca's ruthlessness than the kidnapping and murder of 11-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo. The boy's father, Santo Di Matteo, took part in the 1992 Falcone killing and later informed on others involved in the plot. Brusca kidnapped the boy in November 1993. He was told that they were taking him to see his father, who was in hiding. Instead they held the boy for 26 months, during which they tortured him and sent grisly photos to his father to force him to retract his testimony. Di Matteo made a desperate trip to Sicily to try to negotiate his son's release. The boy was finally strangled on the orders of Giovanni Brusca. Subsequently the body was dissolved in a barrel of acid to destroy the evidence. Brusca once had to face Di Matteo, in court. Di Matteo told the judge: "I guarantee my collaboration but to this animal I guarantee nothing. If you leave me alone with him for two minutes I'll cut off his head." Giovanni Brusca was one of the most powerful Mafia leaders between Riina’s arrest in January 1993 and his own in May 1996. He was involved in the campaign of terror in 1993 against the state to get them to back off in their crackdown against the Mafia after the murders on Anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Following the months after Riina's arrest, there were a series of bombings by the Corleonesi against several tourist spots on the Italian mainland – the Via dei Georgofili in Florence, Via Palestro in Milan and the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and Via San Teodoro in Rome, which left 10 people dead and 71 injured as well as severe damage to centres of cultural heritage such as the Uffizi Gallery.
On May 20, 1996, then aged thirty-nine, Brusca was arrested in a small house in the Sicilian countryside near Agrigento, where he was dining with his girlfriend, their young son and his brother Vincenzo, his sister-in-law and their two children. The investigators were able to pinpoint their exact location when the noise of a plainclothes officer driving by the house on a motorbike was picked up by officers listening to a call intercepted on Brusca's cellular phone. When Brusca was hurried into Palermo's police station some 90 minutes after the arrest dozens of cops cheered, honked their horns and embraced each other. As the scruffy-bearded Brusca emerged from a car, clad in dirty jeans and a rumpled white shirt, some ripped off their ski masks, as if to say they no longer had anything to fear from the Mafia. One reportedly managed to slip past guards and punched Brusca in the face. Brusca had received a life sentence the previous year after being convicted in absentia of murder and he was subsequently convicted of the bomb attack that killed the Anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone near Capaci. In court Brusca admitted detonating the bomb, planted under the motorway from the airport to Palermo, by remote control while watching the magistrate’s convoy through binoculars from a hill. Collaborating with Italian justice
After his arrest Brusca started to collaborate. Initially, his collaboration met with scepticism, fearing his 'repentance' could be a ruse to escape the harsh prison terms reserved for ranking Mafia bosses. Did the state really want to start offering protection, not to mention a salary and the promise of judicial leniency, to a monster of a man nicknamed U Verru, The Pig? The man who had punished a Mafia pentito by dissolving the body of his 11-year-old son in an acid bath. In the first three months, much of what Brusca said turned out to be either unverifiable or false, and a growing chorus of politicians called for a tightening of the whole collaboration system Despite having confessed numerous murders and other criminal activities, he was not granted the status of full collaborator until February 1999. Until that time Brusca was described as a dichiarante, or talking witness. Although many of his evidence eventually was judged to be credible, suspicions remained that his collaboration was part of a strategy to emasculate other pentiti and subvert the course of justice. Brusca has offered a controversial version of the capture of Totò Riina: a secret deal between Carabinieri officers, secret agents and Cosa Nostra bosses tired of the dictatorship of the Corleonesi. According to Brusca, Bernardo Provenzano "sold" Riina in exchange for the valuable archive of compromising material that Riina held in his apartment in Via Bernini 52 in Palermo. In 2004, it was reported that Brusca was allowed out of prison for one week every forty-five days to see his family, a reward for his good behaviour as well as becoming an informant and co-operating with the authorities. Relatives of his many victims were angry at such seemingly soft treatment for a multiple-killer.