A Scandalous Story about the Mafia, Extortion and Cake

Sicily’s Anti-Extortion spokesman is Arrested while Extorting 100k Euros


In one of the most delicious news items ever reported since I’ve been living in Sicily, it turns out that one of the main men in charge of combating extortion in Sicily has just been arrested… for extortion. It was “Aggravated extortion,” in fact, which means he used threats and violence as well.

Roberto Helg. Big-time criminal scumbag


So who exactly was arrested anyway?

His name is Roberto Helg and he was the head of Palermo Chamber of Commerce, called Confindustria. Under his auspices, in 2005, the Chamber of Commerce opened a special office where victims of extortion and racketeering could report that they were under threat and, supposedly, receive real legal protection.

He was also head of Gesap, the company which manages Palermo Airport.

Get this in yer pants


What was he doing?

He was recorded extorting 100,000 Euros from a cake-maker called Santi Palazzolo who simply wanted to renew the rental agreement for his cake shop at Palermo Airport.

Little did Helg know that cake-man Palazzolo had already gone to the Carabinieri (Italy’s paramilitary police force), and was wired with recording devices and spy-cameras all over him like a Christmas tree. (They used plenty because Italian technology sometimes has quirky moments.)

Santi Palazzolo, il titolare...
Ya wanna caaaaike? A thousand Euros. I’va got debts to pay off…


Mr. Helg was arrested with a cheque for 70 thousand euros in his pocket, whilst trousering another 30 thousand in cash. One assumes he has capacious pockets, because a wad of 30 grand is pretty fat.

This man doesn’t extort money…


When the police arrested him (and what a pity I wasn’t in Palermo eating some cake when that happened) he denied everything, even when they tugged a great wad out of his pockets.

Eventually they played him the tape of his negotiations, and all of a sudden, he spilled his guts. He named names, he drew them a Harvard MBA-standard organigram of the criminal organisation behind him, and he proffered proof of multiple other crimes.

See the arrest on film!

Follow this link so see the arrest, which is just as dramatic as an episode of Law and Order or even Castle. It has spy cameras, it has wailing police sirens and, as Sicily’s leading newspaper Giornale di Sicilia points out, the only thing lacking is the theme tune from The Godfather Movies.


What about his trial?

Helg’s defence lawyer chose to step down yesterday. He said he made a vow long ago to defend victims of extortion, and defending Helg would be “incompatible” with that.

The silliest thing of all?

A few days ago, one of Helg’s Confindustria buddies called Antonello Montante was arrested for being in the Mafia. Helg publicly spoke out in his defence, offering solidarity.

Didn’t it cross his mind that he was going to look rather suspicious?

Who me? No! I didn’t eat the cake!



34 Comments Add yours

  1. Pecora Nera says:

    Why am I not surprised!

    Brilliant post 🙂


    1. After 10 years living here, I sometimes wonder if ANYTHING at all could surprise me!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. ksbeth says:

    i love this story so much. )


    1. I can’t decide it I like it more because it’s so Sicilian, so evil, or because it’s got cake in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course this goes on all the time and everywhere so we just love to see the exposé. But this one is particularly tasty!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you think the level of corruption really is this extreme and blatant everywhere? I hope not…. If so, how are they so much better at hiding it elsewhere?


      1. They legitimize it and call it lobbying.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ah! A rose by any other name….


      3. Anonymous says:

        In America, the Supreme court legitimized SuperPACS. That way any billionaire can buy a congressional seat, even the Presidency. Bribery is universal. Call it what you like. As for the cassata, why do Sicilians love those candied fruit things?


      4. Gosh that’s astonishing and horrifying! The more I learn about the American political system, the more I realise it is not a democracy at all. Yet the PR machine is so good at promoting it as such.
        And yes, those candied fruit things – it’s a mystery. I enjoy my fatty, sugary junk food as well as the next woman, but cassata is too much even for me!


  4. This is classic, classic stuff. Thanks for sharing it! I am particularly amused by the surveillance audio; is that the sound of Helg stuffing his pants with cash at the end?


    1. Or his mouth with cake? I just wish we had a visual on that one!


  5. BerLinda says:

    I could see Lady of the Cakes trying to pull something like this – except she would have been found with pockets full of cake instead 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If I were a corrupt official I might be willing to accept payment in kind…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. fpvpilot says:

    Unbelievably corrupt. I don’t see that changing in a long time to come. I sometimes ponder on how that aspect of society can be fixed, but I just don’t see any easy solution.

    I had a funny discussion with a Sicilian relative who complained a lot about local government corruption and about what for crooks they are. So I asked him “So if you were in the same position as them, would you be honest and incorruptible?”, and he said “No, I’d be the biggest crook of all steal more money than all of them”. So I told him that he’s complaining about a problem that he is a part of and that so long as that mentality is so widespread, then so will the problem be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the people who wold be incorruptible are few and far between, unfortunately.
      It is hard to get into a position of power if you are honest, because there are so many people who want to step in and stop you spoiling the game for them.
      And corruption and cheating go from the top to the bottom of society – it’s the way life is lived in every detail.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. fpvpilot says:

    Oops I somehow accidently clicked on the like link below my own post while submitting. I don’t want to look like I’m patting myself on my back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you managed to undo the like by clicking it again!
      I once did the same though – did you get that cheeky WordPress message saying “You think you’re so cool” or something similar?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pecora Nera says:

        We are not supposed to click the like our own comments button?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Pecora Nera says:

        I suppose I will have to un follow my own blog next.. uffa!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. fpvpilot says:

        Haha no I didn’t get such a message or perhaps I didn’t see it. Anyway, I clicked on the star and it worked 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Pecora Nera I just clicked like on my own comment and I hope you will do the same, on your one!!! 😛


  8. T. Franke says:

    Is it possible that Mr Cake-Maker now makes the business of his life? I really would go there and buy some cakes of this hero of the day. Is it possible to get them by mail in Germany?! Of course, this works only for cakes with higher date of expiry 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you decide to treat yourself to another holiday in Sicily you could have them as soon as you reach the airport.
      But how about I go to his cake shop in Palermo and eat a plate of his cakes on your behalf? I’ll email you a photo before I eat them and afterwards, describe exactly how good they were!!! 😉


      1. T. Franke says:

        Look, here is the shop “Pasticceria Palazzolo” at the airport, and if you click on the picture, its own Web site opens – the shop owner is clearly not a former employee of the Bagheria museum 🙂 And there is more: On trip adivsor he gets 5 points for being courageous!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh wow! Well the Bagheria museum definitely needs HIM running their museum cafe!!!!!! Just looking at the website makes my mouth water!
        I notice he does online delivery – do you know if he can deliver to Germany? 🙂


  9. Amazing! Bravo for the cake man! That took some guts….:)


    1. Yes it did! I think he deserves a medal!


  10. Isabelle says:

    Crumbs! That really takes the biscuit, 100k is a lot of dough 😉
    But genuinely, just how much money can a cake shop make? Don’t these crooks usually extort a part of the profits, not a multiple?


    1. Well that’s what I thought. If cake shops can make enough money to pay that kind of dough just to be ALLOWED to pay the rent on their premises, I seriously need to dust off my scone and muffin recipes.


  11. Anna says:

    I’m feeling a special Russian-Sicilian bond right now. This could totally be our headline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha haaa!
      OK, here’s my bloggy challenge: try to compose the most similar (true) story to this about the Russian Mafia and I’ll publish it as a blog post! What do you think?


  12. Martina says:

    In 2009, Alfredo Nocera had filed a complaint with the Italian Police without results.


    1. Sadly this doesn’t surprise me…


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