JACQUI GODDARD | news.scotsman.com
FOR four decades, Jose Miguel Battle allegedly headed a violent crime syndicate that reaped $1.5 billion (£818 million) in illegal profits and ruthlessly disposed of its rivals in a series of bloody murders.
Today, the reputed El Padrino - or Godfather - of the Cuban Mafia in the United States, will appear before a court in Florida for perhaps the last time, capping an investigation that has frustrated the FBI for four decades.
Arrested last week as he shuffled through the fruit and vegetable section of his local supermarket in Miami, the ailing 74-year-old multi-millionaire faces charges that could send him to jail for up to 25 years. Alongside him in the dock will be 24 associates, including his son and successor, who were also rounded up last week as part of Operation Corporate Raider, a joint mission by state and federal authorities to finally break up the 2,500-strong mob known as The Corporation.
“These are the top players,” said Miami-Dade County police director Carlos Alvarez. “They called it The Corporation because they ran it like a corporation - a corporation that made a lot of money.”
The indictment, issued last week, seeks the return of the entire $1.5 billion (£818 million) the group has earned since 1964.
In the 40 years since its foundation, The Corporation “has conducted extensive illegal gambling operations, trafficked in cocaine and marijuana, stolen merchandise from hijacked trucks and used violence and intimidation to conduct its operations, including the commission of multiple murders”, according to a statement issued by the office of prosecutor Marcos Daniel Jimenez.
Formerly a vice detective in Havana during Fulgencio Batista’s regime, Battle fled Cuba following Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959 and headed for the US, where he joined Brigade 2056, a Cuban exile paramilitary group based in Miami.
In 1961, he was captured and jailed in Cuba after taking part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a CIA-sponsored raid on the island by anti-Castro paramilitaries.
After serving 22 months, he moved back to the US and opened a shop in New Jersey selling religious artefacts, before heading south to Florida in the 1970s.
Federal agents claim he founded a crime ring that has fought ruthless turf wars in Florida, New York and New Jersey, seeing off Italian competitors with contract killings and the firebombing of more than 100 properties.