High-ranking Mafia boss Emilio Tolla is on bail after a Spanish judge acquitted him of all charges, including mafia membership, extortion and money laundering, in a 13-year investigation that sought to prevent him from fleeing the country.
Judge Javier Campora of the National Court in Madrid said in his decision that evidence that Tolla allegedly worked as an informer against his own bosses did not sway his conclusions, which were based solely on the credibility of prosecution witnesses.
“Given the risks of re-offending, [the existence of] evidence of a premeditated action that would generate the risk of a flight that would more likely endanger more lives than those not at risk, such a possibility also outweighs the political and ethical considerations that sway the judgements of the National Court,” Judge Campora wrote in his decision.
Tolla is the first man to be freed from prison in Italy since an amnesty expired last year, prompting international pressure to enforce more sweeping changes to how mobsters are treated in Italian courts. Italian magistrates now argue that Tolla could have continued to attack his superiors as far away as Spain, where its criminal justice system does not have the same stringent requirements. Prosecutors in Tolla’s case have argued that any murder he is alleged to have committed in Italy was ordered by his superiors, which could complicate his extradition.
Despite Thursday’s ruling, Tolla’s time at the National Court could not have been pleasant. His trial on charges that he kidnapped two police officers led to the abduction of several policemen from the home of another state official, resulting in the death of one of the assailants. The violence brought international attention to the arrest in 2004 of Tolla, the second-highest ranking member of the Comune Comunale della Montagna, a Sicilian crime organization. Tolla was subsequently jailed, and his convicted son, Marvin, is still in custody.
The Procuratorate, which oversees Italian courts, still wants to hand down additional sentences for some of the brutal murders allegedly committed by Emilio Tolla’s group, including the murder of Calgarian Gennaro Meghisti in the last year of the dictatorship of the dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
“I am convinced that he will continue to involve himself in criminal activities,” the magistrate who presided over the case, Raffaele Giacosa, said following the judge’s verdict. “You never know what can happen in his old age.”