The police department said that the coffee products would allow the family to profit from its own illegal activities.
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons
Notorious Mafia boss Salvatore “Totò” Riina was reportedly responsible for the horrific murders of at least 150 people, including police officers, two anti-Mafia judges, and a 13-year old boy whose body was dissolved in acid to prevent his family from holding a funeral service. He died in prison in November; he had been incarcerated since 1993 and was serving 26 consecutive life sentences for his crimes.
Within days of his death, Riina’s daughter, Concetta, decided to commemorate her father by launching a line of espresso bearing both his name and his face on the label. Riina and her husband, Antonio Ciavarello, set up an online store and had started accepting pre-orders for the Zu Totò (Uncle Totò) espresso pods.
“We want to sell some Zu Totò brand products. We’re starting with coffee capsules, we’re doing this pre-sale so we can collect orders and cash to get us going, seeing as [the police] seized everything from us without reason,” Riina wrote on her Facebook page. “Thanks in advance for your faith, we're expecting large orders from you.”
Her efforts were widely condemned, and the website was shut down by authorities last week. Concetta and her husband—who is currently on house arrest for fraud—were defiant in their first post after the shop’s involuntary closure. “The lion is wounded but is not dead, it will soon rise up and keep fighting… as it has always done, always,” they wrote, adding that in addition to espresso, they would also be selling olive oil.
According to Repubblica, selling products with Riina’s name or face isn’t a crime on its own, but the police department said that it would allow the family to profit from its own illegal activities. "This is an intolerable provocation, which this community does not want to endure,” the mayor of Concetta Riina’s town said. “We work every day to affirm the concepts of legality and respect for the rules and to instill them in young people. We cannot tolerate that among us there are people who praise a bloody boss.”
At the time of his death, L’Espresso reminded the country of Riina’s multi-decade reign of terror.
“Riina has ordered thousands of murders, many of them executed in person,” the paper said. “In the summer of terror in 1979, he left dozens of corpses on the asphalt. Among them, a servant of the state, a great policeman who was breathing on the neck of the [Mafia family]. In addition to him, Riina has killed carabinieri (national police officers), magistrates, trade unionists, journalists, doctors and regional and political officials, including a president of the Sicilian Region.”
At one point, Riina drank at least three espressos every day. He gave up the habit when he went to prison, fearing that his well-publicized affinity for espresso would give enemies an opportunity to poison him. Riina lived to be 87.