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That year, magistrates in Milan discovered a nationwide corruption system; its exposure led to the dissolution of local councils, the destruction of Italy’s major political parties, and the suicides of a number of businessmen and politicians who had been named for taking bribes.

More than half the members of the Italian parliament came under investigation.

Beginning in the late nineteen-seventies, the Sicilian Mafia waged a vicious war against the Italian state.

Its adherents assassinated journalists, prosecutors, judges, police officers, and politicians, and terrorized their colleagues into submission.

Three years later, his colleague Rocco Chinnici was killed by a car bomb.

In response, a small group of magistrates formed an anti-Mafia pool; each member agreed to put his name on every prosecutorial order, so that none could be singled out for assassination.

By 1986, the anti-Mafia team was ready to bring charges against four hundred and seventy-five mobsters, in what became known as the “maxi-trial,” the world’s largest Mafia proceeding.

The trial was held inside a massive bunker in Palermo, constructed for the occasion, whose walls could withstand an attack by rocket-propelled grenades.

In 1980, after it was leaked that Gaetano Costa, the chief prosecutor of Palermo, had signed fifty-five arrest warrants, he was gunned down in the street by the Cosa Nostra.

When I met with him, in May, he sat with his feet on his desk, wearing teal-rimmed glasses and smoking a Toscano cigar.

Shelves bowed under dozens of binders, each containing thousands of pages of documents—transcripts of wiretaps and witness statements for high-profile criminal cases.

October 3, 2013, a Sicilian prosecutor named Calogero Ferrara was in his office in the Palace of Justice, in Palermo, when he read a disturbing news story.

Before dawn, a fishing trawler carrying more than five hundred East African migrants from Libya had stalled a quarter of a mile from Lampedusa, a tiny island halfway to Sicily.