Salvatore Riina’s reign of terror and violence left a lasting impact on the Sicilian Mafia and Italian society as a whole.
In today’s article, we take a look at his life as we find out more about him as well as his brother and sister with whom they grew up together.
Salvatore Riina’s Biography
Salvatore Riina, also known as Totò ‘u Curtu, was a notorious Italian mobster and the chief of the Sicilian Mafia.
Riina, who was born on November 16, 1930, in Corleone, Italy, became notorious for his brutal murder campaign, which culminated in the early 1990s with the deaths of Antimafia Commission prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. These killings sparked great public outrage and prompted the government to launch a serious crackdown.
Tot is the diminutive of Riina’s given name Salvatore, hence he got the moniker “Tot the Short.” He was also known as “the beast” and “boss of bosses.” In the mid-1970s, Riina supplanted Luciano Leggio as the leader of the Corleonesi criminal organisation, and he established supremacy through a campaign of violence against his competitors.
During this period, the police concentrated on his opponents, rendering Riina less vulnerable to law enforcement interference, as many of the established chiefs who had typically sought influence through bribery were dismissed.
Riina broke established Mafia standards by promoting the murder of women and children, and she even targeted innocent members of the public to distract police enforcement. Giovanni Brusca, a hitman, believed that he murdered between 100 and 200 individuals on Riina’s behalf.
This scorched-earth tactic efficiently destroyed any internal threats to Riina’s control, but it also placed his organisation into open conflict with the state, exposing a lack of Riina’s previous finesse.
Riina was convicted to life in prison in absentia in 1986 as part of the Maxi Trial for Mafia involvement and many killings. However, he had been on the run since the late 1960s after being charged with murder.
After living as a fugitive for 23 years, Riina was apprehended in 1993, prompting his organisation to launch a series of indiscriminate bombs on art galleries and churches. Because of his lack of repentance, Riina was imprisoned under the harsh Article 41-bis prison system until his death on November 17, 2017.
Riina’s childhood was marred by poverty since she grew up in a run-down country cottage in Corleone.
In September 1943, his father, Giovanni Riina, accidently detonated an unexploded American bomb while attempting to open it for its powder and metal. Francesco, Giovanni and Salvatore’s seven-year-old brother, was killed in the explosion, while his other brother Gaetano was injured.
Riina was condemned to 12 years in jail at the age of 19 for killing Domenico Di Matteo in a brawl. In 1956, he was liberated. Michele Navarra was the head of the Mafia family in Corleone until he was assassinated in 1958 on the orders of Luciano Leggio, who thereafter became the new boss.
Riina joined forces with Leggio, Calogero Bagarella, and Bernardo Provenzano, proving instrumental in boosting the Corleonesi’s dominance.
Riina and Leggio went into hiding in the early 1960s due to arrest warrants, since they had been hunting down and killing Navarra’s surviving supporters.
The couple were captured and tried for murders committed earlier in the decade in 1969. They were acquitted, however, because jurors and witnesses were intimidated. After being indicted on another murder accusation later that year, Riina became a fugitive and remained on the run for the next 23 years.
Riina took over as Corleonesi’s leader when Leggio was captured in 1974. He was also associated to the ‘Ndrangheta, a Mafia-like organisation in Calabria. Domenico Tripodo, a renowned ‘Ndrangheta figure and prolific cigarette smuggler, served as Riina’s comparator d’anello (best man) at his wedding in 1974.
The Corleonesi’s major opponents were the heads of prominent Palermo Mafia groups Stefano Bontade, Salvatore Inzerillo, and Tano Badalamenti. Between 1981 and 1983, Riina launched the Second Mafia War, which resulted in the deaths of Bontade, Inzerillo, and many of their associates and family members.
Riina and the Corleonesi, along with their supporters, defeated their competitors and effectively took control of the Mafia by the end of the war. In the years that followed, Riina strengthened his control by executing his allies, including Filippo Marchese, Giuseppe Greco, and Rosario Riccobono.
In February 1980, Tommaso Buscetta, a major Mafia member, escaped to Brazil to escape the growing Second Mafia War.
Salvatore Riina’s Brothers And Sisters
Salvatore Riina has four siblings by the names of Arcangela Riina, Francesco Riina, Giovanna Francesca Riina, Gaetano Riina and Caterina Riina.