Mobster-Turned-Informer and Agca in Courtroom Confrontation
ROME (AP) _ A mobster-informer swore on his mother’s grave Tuesday that Mehmet Ali Agca, the convicted papal assailant, was coached in prison to implicate the Soviet bloc in the shooting of Pope John Paul II.
Giovanni Pandico, a member of the Naples-based Camorra crime gang who turned state’s evidence in a trial of suspected gangsters, testified in the seven-month-old pope plot trial that he himself had contacted Agca in return for a favor from Italian prison officials.
Agca shouted at Pandico, who sat nearby him in court, calling him a liar and claiming they had never seen each other before.
Pandico, in an interview with an Italian newsweekly, L’Expresso, was quoted in a June issue as saying that Camorra bosses and Italian secret service agents coached Agca in prison to claim there was a Soviet and Bulgarian role in the shooting of the pope in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.
Agca, a Turk, is serving a life sentence in Italian prison for shooting the pope. He first insisted that he acted alone in the attack, but later changed his account to say that there was a conspiracy. Largely upon his testimony, the current trial was ordered against four Turks and three Bulgarians. Only one Bulgarian and two Turks are in custody. The rest are being tried in absentia, except for one Turkish defendant who was never arrested and died in October.
In the magazine interview, Pandico claimed that Italian authorities came up with the idea of coaching Agca when the mobsters pleaded with prison officals to delay the transfer to another prison of Raffaele Cutolo, the imprisoned boss of a major Camorra gang, because of a suspected assassination attempt against Cutolo.
Pandico was quoted as saying in the interview that when the deal was made, Cutolo’s transfer was put off by two weeks.
In his courtroom testimony, Pandico recounted how he and Cutolo, by means of a chaplain at Ascoli Piceno prison in central Italy, made contact with fellow inmate Agca, who later was transferred to another prison.
Pandico stuck by his version, saying he swore on the grave of his mother, who was killed six months ago in a bombing police blamed on mobsters angered when Pandico became an informer.