[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Transcript: Married to the Mob

Married to the Mob

DATE: 28:05:07

JEREMY VINE: Good evening, I'm Jeremy Vine. It's 8.30 and this is Panorama. Tonight, married to the mob, the woman from Manchester who fell for a Sicilian Mafia boss talks exclusively to Panorama.

ANN HATHAWAY: When you're married to a Sicilian husband you don't get involved in things what he does and what he doesn't do.

VINE: Not true say the Italian authorities. Ann Hathaway has been convicted for her part in Cosa Nostra.

NICOLO MARINO: She was behaving like a Mafioso, so she was deemed to be a Mafioso.

[Newspaper header] The Godmother : Cold-blooded murders, extortion rackets... and a housewife from Rochdale, about how an English girl went to Italy as a dancer ? and ended up running one of Sicily's most murderous Mafia families.

MAN: [Reading Guardian headlines] Mafia don's wife tracked to Middleton. When she sees that next week, we probably will all have a laugh about it when it's finished.

VINE: It could be a plot line from The Sopranos. She was a 17 year old dancing girl from Manchester, he was a young and handsome Mafia boss from Sicily. Now nearly 30 years on he's in gaol for murder, drug smuggling and extortion while she stands convicted of helping to run his criminal empire.

JOHN WARE: Sicily, a holiday Ireland at the foot of Italy. For tourists the Mafia is folksy, part of Sicily's allure. But the real Sicilian Mafia is a shadow state using violence to exert control and raise money. This is Agrigento gaol, home to around a hundred Mafioso prisoners. I've been allowed to meet one of them. Ann Hathaway, a mother of two from Manchester. The Italians say she was a trusted go-between for the Mafia, something she denies.

ANN: They're trying to say I'm involved. I'm not involved in anything.

WARE: For 20 years Ann Hathaway has been married to a Mafia boss Antonio Rinzivollo serving 30 years for extortion, drugs trafficking and murder. He's been in gaol for most of the time she's known him.

ANN: Why am I here?

WARE: Because you were married to the mob.

ANN HATHAWAY Yeah, but you can't arrest somebody just because they're married to someone that's got problems. What's that got to do with me.

WARE: Do you acknowledge you were married to the mob?

ANN: Well I know now, but they can say I'm... yeah, I knew before that, yeah.

WARE: You did know that.

ANN: Well obviously because they're in and out like yoyos, aren't they, so you know something's wrong.

WARE: Ann Hathaway has been in gaol for four months while her legal team thrashed out a deal with the Italian authorities. She's accepted a conviction for Mafia association. In return for the authorities allowing her to go free.

Sicily Carabinieri
She was a chain of continuity, a link between the heads of the family and the entire organisation. She was a point of contact which would keep the whole machine running, a monstrous machine geared for making money and committing crime.

WARE: Famously the Mafia is bound by it's code of silence, ?Omertà', never to be broken by its so-called men of honour. Although Ann Hathaway has been convicted she claims to know little about the Mafia.

There are things about Cosa Nostra that you know and you know you know, but you're never going to discuss. Is that fair?

ANN: I don't know anything. I don't know anything.

WARE: You don't know anything. You know nothing. You know nothing. Is that right? You know nothing.

ANN: (laughs) One of them... no see, no... (covers eyes and mouth and ears) no, I don't I've never... I've told you that before, I never seen anything, never touched anything, never....

WARE: Ask questions.

ANN: Never ask questions.

WARE: You know nothing.

ANN: Just get on with it and that was it.

WARE: You know nothing.

ANN: I know what I've read out the paper, I know what I've seen on the news, I know what...

Anti-Mafia Magistrate
But a Mafioso, in this case not even an Italian, would admit "I am a Mafioso". Well, that would be rare indeed. That almost never happens.

WARE: A world away in Middleton, outside Manchester, Ann's brother, Lee, is convinced it's all nonsense.

LEE HATHAWAY: The stuff about the Mafia, it's like something you see in the films, isn't it, and it makes a good story, don't it, an English girl, going over to Italy and marrying a Mafia boss.

WARE: Lee has been looking after Ann's daughters while she has been in gaol. Her husband, Antonio, is godfather to Lee's son, and as far as Lee is concerned, that's the only kind of godfather Antonio has ever been.

LEE: I mean there's nothing saying that Antonio's a Mafia boss, so I mean that's another story that's made about Tony's a number two in the Mafia in Sicily. I mean who is saying that?

WARE: This Mafia man used to be one of Antonio Rinzivillo's mobsters. He's now a top super grass for the Italian state and he's admitted several murders. We can't show his face because he fears for his life. He says he knew Antonio very well.

SUPER GRASS: Antonio Rinzivollo had charisma. He wouldn't think twice before ordering a murder and everyone respected him. In 1990 I was just a kid. Antonio was in his 30s. Even elderly men, out of respect, would call him Zio Antonio, Uncle Tony.

WARE: So how did a girl from Lancashire get mixed up with a Mafioso they call "Uncle Tony." It all began at a nightclub in Northern Italy where Ann Hathaway was a dancer.

You earned a living from it.

ANN: Yes, when I first came here, yes.

WARE: You must have been some dancer.

ANN: Yeah, I was alright. (laugh)

WARE: Are you going to give us a turn?

ANN: No, I don't think so.

WARE: Back in 1979 she had a captive audience which included one, Antonio Rinzivillo from Sicily. He was 23, she was 17.

What did you think when you saw him?

ANN: Love at first sight. (laugh)

WARE: Was it love at first sight?

ANN: Yeah.

WARE: Really?

ANN: Yeah.

WARE: Before long Antonio was sent to gaol for 4 and a half years.

What was he convicted of?

ANN: I think he'd battered someone I think. I think he'd argued with someone.

WARE: Did you ask him?

ANN: No.

WARE: When did you get to understand what the Mafia was?

ANN: Probably a year later you hear things and see things on the telly and... probably a year later.

WARE: What did you think?

ANN: I didn't think anything because I was just young and foolish probably.

WARE: After Antonio was released, the couple got married in Rochdale, but Italy was always their home. This is Gela in Sicily, miles off the tourist trail. Gela is Greek for ?laugh' but with the Mafia holding sway there hasn't been much to laugh about. Gela has been the powerbase of the Rinzivillo clan. There's nothing subtle about the way you get reminded to stick to Mafia rules here in Gela. If you're late with a protection payment you don't exactly get a final notice through the post ? you just get your car torched.

Antonio Rinzivillo would tell me to go do some damage and I would send in the boys. We would torch people's shops, cars or houses.

WARE: In the 1980s Antonio and his brothers ran a meat packing business. They packed quite a punch. Every butcher in Gela was offered a selection of choice cuts from the Rinzivillos, not that they had much choice. The Rinzivillo brothers persuaded the owner of this supermarket to buy his meat from them. Much more meat than he could possibly sell. So much meat in fact that he went broke, leaving the owner with only one option which was to hand over his business to the Rinzivillos.

The meat packing business also served as a front.

Sicily Carabinieri
The Rinzivillos traditionally controlled the meat industry here in this region, but in reality they were busy with an altogether different type of crime.

WARE: The brothers ran a fleet of refrigerated trucks which crisscrossed Italy carrying carcasses, into which was packed cocaine. The Italian authorities say the Rinzivollos grew rich from international drug smuggling. Just last month Antonio was convicted for this.

So you don't think your husband has been involved in drugs trafficking?

ANN: To be honest, when you're married to a Sicilian husband you're at home cooking, cleaning, washing, looking after the kids. You don't get involved in things what he does and what he doesn't do.

WARE: But if you're married 20 years I guess there comes a time when, as a wife, you say "what have you been involved in?"

ANN: Yeah, but I've never asked him.

WARE: Never. Honestly?

ANN: Honestly. And even if I would have asked him, he's not the type of person that will have turned around and told me.

WARE: Is that why it's called Cosa Nostra?

ANN: I don't know. Probably, yeah.

WARE: What does Cosa Nostra mean?

ANN: Our thing.

WARE: "Our business" meaning: "not your business."

ANN: Yeah. Not mine, no.

WARE: By the late 1980s, thanks largely to their income from drugs, the Rinzivillos, Coso Nostra's men in Gela were going from strength to strength. The town's old criminal gangs were losing ground. In 1989 they fought back and all hell broke loose. Over the next three years scores were killed in Sicily's bloodiest turf war in living memory.

BARTOLOMEO DI NISO: It was a black period for which Gela is still infamous. On one day, for instance, nine people were killed, butchered in three different ambushes. We'd just reach the scene of one shoot-up, then we'd be called out to another ambush before the response to the earlier murder.

WARE: The Rinzivillo clan member turned super grass says that in 1990 Ann Hathaway was present as the gang retrieved weapons hidden in the countryside.

SUPER GRASS: Antonio Rinzivillo was there with his wife. We dug up big containers full of weapons which were buried in the ground. They were looking on. He gave us the order in front of his wife, so it must have been quite normal.

WARE: Ann Hathaway flatly denies this claim. "It's a lie" she says. So relentless was the shooting, and so young were many of the victims, that Gena's graveyard looks as if the town sacrificed a generation in a great war. 180 dead in three years, 180 wounded. In the end the Rinzivillos came out on top.

Anti-Mafia Magistrate
His family paid a price for taking over this power, a price in blood.

WARE: Two of Antonio Rinzivillos brothers were shot in the battle to dominate Gela. Francesco, as he left a butcher's shop in the town centre, and Giuseppe gunned down in an ambush in which their father was also hit.

Do you know why they were deliberately killed?

ANN: No. I think one of them was a butcher and one of them used to work on the oil rigs. You know, they was like working people... normal working people. They had nothing to do with the Mafia.

WARE: But her husband has been convicted of avenging the death of Francesco. An associate of his killer was executed by a Mafia hit man on Christmas eve in 1990.

SUPER GRASS: The order was given by Antonio Rinzivillo. Antonio Rinzivillo was our boss and we couldn't kill anyone without an order from the boss.

WARE: This seaside castle is where the hit man, hired by Antonio Rinzivillo, laid low until, according to a super grass, it was time to delivery Antonio's Christmas present, 19 shots delivered to his victim as he scurried for cover underneath his office desk. Antonio is serving life for ordering this murder. The courts judged as credible the evidence of the super grass we've spoken to. Antonio is facing three further murder charges.

You know what the authorities say about your husband?

ANN: Yeah.

WARE: They say he's a pretty big Mafiosi.

ANN: That's what they say but there's no proof. I mean it's like now he's got 30 year to do in prison just because they've got super grasses that have told stories about him, but there's no proof, there's no DNA or no photographs or no fingerprints. There's no proof why he's in for 30 years.

WARE: This is the heavily armoured car of the investigating magistrate who helped put Antonio Rinzivillo behind bars. Nicolo Marino also investigated Ann Hathaway. When magistrates began to use super grasses in the 1990s they became prim targets for the Mafia.

23 May 1992

[NEWS] Judge Giovanni Falcone died together with his police escort in a bomb attack in Palermo.

[NEWS] Borsellino and five of his bodyguards were blown up by a massive car bomb in 1992.

WARE: Targeting the state backfired badly and brought a crackdown. But the Mafia is nothing if not flexible. It underwent a massive reorganisation, the Rinzivillos included. They followed the lead of the Sicilian Mafia's boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano. Captured last year after more than 40 years on the run.

NICOLO MARINO: The Rinzivillos linked themselves with Provenzanos method, with his way of running Cosa Nostra. It's more underground. It sneaks its way into the economic fabric.

SUPER GRASS: There was a thread which directly connected the Rinzivillos and Provenzano, it led the moderate wing of Cosa Nostra. Not that they were nicer guys though. It's a strategy. Cosa Nostra's business works better when there's no noise around.

Police photographs

WARE: Quietly the Rinzivillo brothers spent the 1990s expanding their criminal empire, taking control of 21 businesses worth more than 12 million pounds, through which their dirty money from extortion and drugs could be laundered. Ann Hathaway and her daughters lived in Rome, enjoying creature comforts ultimately derived from a criminal network that inflicted misery on others.

Good lifestyle?

ANN: Yes.

WARE: Big house? Small house?

ANN: A pretty big house in Rome, yeah, restaurants, jewellery, clothes.

WARE: By 2005 Antonio, his brothers Salvatori and Gino were all in gaol. Yet the authorities discovered that the Rinzivillo empire was still going strong. Ann Hathaway's living expenses were being paid by this man ? Angelo Bernascone, launderer in chief of the Rinzivillos' dirty money.

How much did he used to send you?

ANN: It depends. Sometimes he'd send me 1000 euros, one time he'd send me 1,500 euros if I had like any bills to pay I'd ring him up and say send me such and such a thing, I've got some bills to pay.

WARE: Berlusconi, along with dozens of Rinzivillo associates, was put under surveillance. The mystery for the authorities was, how was the network being run when all the busses were behind bars.

Sicily Carabinieri
We felt it was the right time for us to begin monitoring the wife of this notorious Mafia boss.

Prison recording

investigators> WARE: So they started to listen in on family visits to Antonio in gaol. For all but four of the 20 years they've had children, prison visiting rooms have been their family life.

ANN: I've seen every prison in Italy, probably, with having my husband in prison and my two brothers-in-law as well, because there were times when I used to visit them as well as my husband, so I had like three husbands in prison.

Prison recording

WARE: Which was exactly why the authorities were so suspicious. The only contact Mafia bosses are permitted with the outside world is with close relatives. They're the only way gaol bosses can keep control. That's why wives are now in the sights of investigators.

NICOLO MARINO Anti-Mafia Magistrate If you have an obstacle then you've got to find a way around it. If there's no other way of contacting the outside world, then bring on board the women if necessary.

Police video

WARE: The authorities followed Ann Hathaway's every move. They recorded hours of her telephone conversations and meetings with associates of the Rinzivillo clan. What emerged, they say, was a picture of complicity, Ann Hathaway as a go-between.

BARTOLOMEO DI NISO: In the conversations in prison and in her contacts with other people in the organisation she was a significant focal point, the point through which passed all the orders and messages for other members of the organisation.

Police video

WARE: Phone taps revealed that Ann Hathaway was in regular contact with the Rinzivillo clan's chief money launderer Angelo Bernascone over six months in 2005. On the orders of gaoled brother-in-law Gino, she was demanding about £80,000 from Bernascone for a deposit on a flat.


Actual police audio: ANN: The total is... 80, 90, 100, 110, around 115,000 euros I think Angelo.

ANGELO: All right then.

A week later there's no sign of the money. Ann has been to see her brother-in-law, Gino, in gaol and his message to Bernascone is crystal clear.


Actual police audio:

ANN: I told him, "Let's see if, by the end of the month.." He said, "No, you must tell Angelo he must do this for me. He must not fail."

BERNASCONE: Who said that?

ANN: My brother-in-law.

BARTOLOMEO DI NISO: A simple communication to someone like Bernascone, maybe, or someone on his behalf, of a sentence or a message sent by her brother-in-law was nothing other than a way of giving instructions on how to run one of their businesses, or get money to someone.

Two months later and still Bernascone hasn't come up with the money.


Actual police audio:
ANN: I have had orders not to even call you any more.

BERNASCONE: Who says you shouldn't call me? Your brother-in-law?

ANN: My brother-in-law was f***ing furious.

BERNASCONE: He's got all the right in the world, like you, but...

ANN: He was really f***ing mad!

WARE: In October 2005 Ann Hathaway again met Gino in gaol. Now he'd lost all patience with Bernascone. He had one final and chilling message for Ann to deliver.

Prison recording

GINO: You tell him, "My brother-in-law's lost many friends and it's your fault. Clearly, people were right about you." Tell him: "You and I are through. Full stop."

WARE: Cut off from her funds Ann Hathaway flew back to Manchester. Bernascone was now under pressure from the Rinzivillos on several fronts. He began to contemplate his future. Last autumn he decided he no longer had one.

BARTOLOMEO DI NISO: One night Bernascone turned up at one of our police barracks in the North of Italy and said: "Look, if you don't put me under protection, they'll kill me." This confirmed our view that the Rinzivillo brothers should never be messed with. The moment you put a foot wrong with them, there's only one possible outcome and that's death.

WARE: Bernascone has told the authorities how he washed the Rinzivillos dirty money. Ann Hathaway was extradited back to Sicily.

You're not earning money, your husband's not earning money. Did you never stop to think: "I wonder where this money is coming from?"

ANN: Well the last few years I've been getting it off Angelo Bernescone, that's what I'm saying. But I know he weren't honest or...

WARE: But why would Mr Bernascone want to give you money?

ANN: Because he was in business with Gino and Antonio.

WARE: What kind of business was he in with Gino and Antonio?

ANN: Building and constructing.

WARE: You see again and again the impression I have is beginning to understand what Cosa Nostra means. Cosa Nostra means ?our business even to very loyal wives'.

ANN: Yeah.

WARE: After 107 days in prison Ann Hathaway is being released.

Are there any questions you wish you had asked your husband now, looking back?

ANN: No, because I think the less you know the better I think.

WARE: You've got no regrets on that front?

ANN: Well what's the point of asking him what he's done and what he hasn't done when I'm already married to him. I love him to death and I've got two kids to him. What is it going to change?

WARE: But if he had done those things, would you have still loved him to death?

ANN: Well I must have done, yeah, because I'm still here, aren't I. I've still got the ring on my finger.

WARE: Ann Hathaway maintains she's committed no crime. True, she never robbed, killed or dealt in drugs. But as far as the Italian authorities are concerned, by signing her acceptance of the facts, she's acknowledged she not only acquired the culture of a Mafioso but behaved like one too, and to the Italians this is no technicality.

NICOLO MARINO: I should like to make it clear, plea bargaining is not a reward. It wasn't as if she was arrested and there was all that fuss for nothing. Let's not forget, this is a conviction and an admission of responsibility.

WARE: Welcoming Ann Hathaway was the sister of Antonio Rinzivillo. She too has recently been released from gaol. In Gela that afternoon there was a small celebration. Ann Hathaway has been part of this tight knit family for almost 30 years. She's one of you now, isn't she? She's Sicilian.


SISTER-IN-LAW: She's been very good at accepting the Sicilian mentality.

WARE: With all that that might entail.

How do you feel about the fact that the police regard you as part of Cosa Nostra?

SISTER-IN-LAW: It's not true. They are wrong.

BROTHER-IN-LAW: Anything happens here, this family gets the blame.

WARE: But Cosa Nostra is more than a network of relatives. The authorities regard it as a cancer, destroying the fabric of the state, and in this battle wives are now fair game, which enrages Antonio's father.

FATHER: If it was me, I'd kill the judges.

(laughter from the family)

FATHER: What they've done is wrong.

ANN: (laughing) You can't say that.

FATHER: I would slaughter them like lambs.

ANN: He's upset with the judges because he's put us through this, his sons through that, he's saying bad words about the judge.

FATHER: And after I slaughter them... listen to me..

WARE: Bad words about the judge.

Ann Hathaway says her goodbyes to Sicily. Her only crime, she says, was to love her husband. But for the state, when it comes to the Mafia, love is no longer an excuse.

NICOLO MARINO: You may have done it for love, or because of your family ties, but it is still your free choice. If you break the law, surely you have to take responsibility for making those choices.

WARE: Back in Manchester Ann Hathaway's friends and family are standing by her. But the fact is, for more than two decades she's been content not to ask questions about one of the world's most ruthless and sinister organisations ? or so she says. Cosa Nostra is a way of life. One clan down, a whole culture still to go.

VINE: John Ware reporting there and the operation in which Ann Hathaway was arrested along with 87 others is said by the Italians to be one of the largest and most significant breakthroughs against the Mafia in the last 15 years.

Next week: Could Britain's single biggest loss of military life in over two decades have been avoided as war becomes more high-tech we investigate claims the RAF's fleet of spy planes is dangerously past its sell by date.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific