Lorenzo Cesa, long-time leader of the Christian Democratic party UDC, is suspected of helping the Calabrian mafia.
When it all falls apart, God still remains. When Lorenzo Cesa left the headquarters of his party a few days ago, probably ending his long political career, he was carrying a rosary in his hand, clearly visible. “I trust in the faith,” he said into the cameras. Normally in such cases one would say: I trust the judiciary. Cesa, 68 years old, Roman and Christian Democrat, had just had the police in the house. She came at dawn, as she always does in a raid, searched the apartment and then informed him that the investigators in distant Catanzaro had found him for a confidante. For a helper, for someone who oils the bosses’ connections to the upper world.
Now this suspicion, if it is true, is monstrous in itself: Cesa is a prominent politician, all Italians know him from television. He was a member of parliament for three legislative terms, was elected to the European Parliament twice, and for fifteen years he headed the Catholic center party Unione di Centro, or UDC for short, the largest administrator of the once overpowering Democrazia Cristiana – until now, until he resigned with the rosary.
In the middle of the back room negotiations
But the case is mainly political. The media are wondering whether the operation with the incongruous name “Basso profilo”, “Inconspicuous”, was perhaps not accidentally part of the ongoing government crisis. Justice with the timer? In any case, she torpedoed them. He needs at least half a dozen new supporters in the Senate, the smaller parliamentary chamber, to stay in office for his badly shrunk majority.
Conte hoped for the traditionally fickle and charmable UDC, which mostly politicized right-of-center. She has three senators. Cesa himself is not one of them, he lost the most recent elections and was a bit bitter about it. But as party leader he directed. For or against Conte? That was initially unclear. But his role was central. When it became known that the judiciary was investigating him because of contacts with the Mafia, a shadow fell over the entire UDC. And suddenly it is permeated by a thousand imponderables.
An explosive lunch at the Tullio restaurant
“Basso profilo” tells the story of a “diabolical connection” between ‘Ndrangheta, entrepreneurs and politicians, as the famous Calabrian mafia hunter Nicola Gratteri calls it. Notaries and an officer of the financial police also belonged to the association, a total of 48 people. With forged files and straw companies, they grabbed public contracts, especially construction contracts. Compliant politicians are said to have been compensated with 5 percent of the business volume – and with packages of votes. In the south of Italy, the mafia can still influence elections. One of the main characters in the gang is said to have been the regional head of the UDC, Franco Talarico. He was Cesa’s emissary in Calabria and responsible for finances in the Calabrian regional administration.
The investigators crossed bank transfers, checked mysterious company names, and they listened to the people talking, thousands of hours of taped phone calls came together. Cesa was “Lorè”, an abbreviation for Lorenzo. The gang built on his contacts with large companies. A lunch in the Tullio restaurant in Rome, summer 2017, which the boss from Calabria also attended, is occupied. Cesa says he needs to look at his agenda, he can’t remember all of his meals. In general he is “totally uninvolved”.
“With the strong our judiciary is weak, with the weak it is strong.”
It’s not the first time that Cesa has had problems with the judiciary: corruption, abuse of office, things like that. He once fled when they were about to arrest him. He also spent a few days in jail. But in the end he was always released – thanks to the statute of limitations, thanks to procedural errors, thanks to a lack of evidence. The newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” writes: “With the strong our judiciary is weak, with the weak it is strong.”