Mafia buying land at NATO base?

Local authorities are trying to learn whether the Mafia has been involved in a series of real estate deals around a NATO base, police sources said. The base, at Comiso, is slated to receive cruise missiles.

The sources said investigators believe leading Italian-American Mafia ''families'' have invested money from the heroin trade into land around the base in the belief it would command high prices when needed for base extensions. The Italian government's top anti-Mafia official, Palermo High Commissioner Emanuele de Francesco, had alerted local authorities in Comiso to the land deals, but so far the Mafia code of silence has blocked efforts to get at the truth behind the deals, the sources added.

Investigators believe at least 30 percent of the land around the base, where 112 cruise missiles are due to be deployed under NATO plans, is controlled by Mafia-front companies. Investigators believe one reason Mafia families are rushing to buy the land is the fear that new legislation could threaten their finances. Under the legislation, police have the power to probe bank accounts, corporate deposits, and contracts.

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