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FBI Awards Medal to Italian Police Chief

12/08/06

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller and Italian National Police Chief Giovanni De Gennero

Director Mueller awarded Italian National Police Chief Giovanni De Gennero the FBI's Medal of Meritorious Achievement.

The FBI bestowed one of its top honors on the chief of the Italian National Police for his pivotal role in a decades-long relationship that initially targeted organized crime connections in the U.S. and Italy but that has evolved into a model of international law-enforcement cooperation.

In a ceremony Friday at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Director Robert S. Mueller presented Giovanni De Gennaro with the FBI's Medal of Meritorious Achievement, an award that recognizes courageous and selfless acts that protect and save the lives of others. De Gennaro's work on the front lines against Italian organized crime put him in constant peril—and atop the Sicilian Mafia's hit list. Despite the dangers, he played a central role in a number of major cases in the mid-'80s with the FBI that significantly hobbled Italian organized crime in the U.S. Friday's presentation marked the first time the medal has been awarded to one of the FBI's international partners.

"Throughout his law enforcement career, Prefetto De Gennaro has shown great courage in the face of unremitting danger and been a champion of the cause of justice," Director Mueller said. "His efforts have directly contributed to our success in combating the threat of organized crime."

It was the partnership with the Italian National Police, Mueller said, that was the precursor for the FBI's network of 58 Legal Attaché offices around the world, where we work closely with local law enforcement on issues of mutual interest, like terrorism, international trafficking, and transnational organized crime. Mueller praised the foresight of his predecessor, Louis Freeh, who worked closely with De Gennaro in the trenches as a prosecutor in New York and later as FBI Director, for expanding the FBI's presence oversees.

"International cooperation is vital to our success," Mueller said.

De Gennaro, who rose up through the ranks since joining the Italian police in 1973, called the FBI honor "one of the most important days of my professional life."

De Gennaro played a key role in investigations that led to prosecutions of some 800 people in the U.S. and Italy, most notably the "Pizza Connection" and "Iron Tower" investigations into international heroin smuggling. The operations significantly reduced Italian influence in the drug trade in the U.S. The Sicilian Mafia responded harshly to the crackdowns, assassinating Italian prosecutors in succession, including a 1992 bombing that killed Giovanni Falcone, a beloved judge and former prosecutor who had put hundreds of Mafiosi behind bars.

"I dedicate this medal to his memory and to so many other Italian officers," De Gennaro said.

Former Director Freeh, who honored his former partner by relating some of his remarks in Italian, called the relationship between the FBI and Italian police "the single best operational partnership in the world."

"The power of the relationship has changed the face of organized crime," Freeh said. To De Gennaro, he said, "You, for us, signify not just great courage, but great cooperation."

Resources:
- Director Mueller's Remarks
- Press Release on Award of Meritorious Achievement
- More International Stories
- Organized Crime Stories