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Tass Reporter Interviews U.S. Atty. Giuliani : Prosecutor Gives Mob-Busting Tips to Soviets

February 05, 1989|RICK HAMPSON | Associated Press

NEW YORK — It was perestroika , more or less, that brought Vladimir Kikilo to U.S. Atty. Rudolph W. Giuliani in search of government secrets.

Back in the U.S.S.R., one expression of the new entrepreneurial spirit is a wave of bribery, extortion and other organized crime. Soviet mobsters throw lavish funerals and use the chain saw as a persuasive device, just like their American counterparts.

Late last summer, the Moscow headquarters of Tass, the Soviet government news agency, asked its New York bureau to write a long report about how the U.S. government is fighting organized crime. Kikilo drew the assignment.

"I had to start from the scratch, as you say," he said in an interview at Tass' office in Rockefeller Center.

He knew enough to realize that he should interview Giuliani, who successfully prosecuted the leaders of New York's Mafia families as well as members of the "Pizza Connection" heroin-smuggling conspiracy.

Has Difficulty Connecting

But Giuliani works for the same Justice Department that keeps an eye on Kikilo and his colleagues, and for a while it seemed Kikilo was destined to be the only reporter in New York never to have gotten a word with the voluble mob-buster.

Kikilo, 36, called Giuliani's office for an interview and, after it was learned who was calling, was referred to Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

There, his calls were passed from office to office. Finally, someone told him Giuliani--who appears on off-hours cable TV shows and lingers long after news conferences to do interviews with college radio stations--would not be able to see him for months, if ever.

Meanwhile, Kikilo had been reading a book on the Pizza Connection case by New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal. One night, while driving home, Kikilo heard Blumenthal plugging his book on the radio.

Sets Up Interview

The next day he called Blumenthal, who discussed the case with him--and helped set up an interview with Giuliani.

Despite his misgivings, Kikilo found the shirt-sleeved Giuliani to be friendly, candid and helpful. Although the newsman pronounced the interview "a real scoop," the prosecutor did not tell him anything he has not been telling anyone else with a pencil or tape recorder for the last six years.

"First, before you prosecute, you have to gather intelligence," Giuliani explained. "You try to develop informants, people within the organization willing to tell you how it functions. They can tell you the weak points, the legitimate people who are victimized--that's the way you start."

Over the next 45 minutes Giuliani went on to spill the rest of the beans, how to seize mob property, tell a boss from an underboss, etc.

Could Use the Tools

Such tactics are of more than academic interest to Soviet authorities. In national security matters, they enjoy investigatory powers that can safely be described as broad. But they cannot prosecute an entire organized crime group or use videotapes as criminal evidence.

Kikilo said it might be good if Giuliani spoke directly with Soviet prosecutors. "I think it could be an excellent thing to talk about," Giuliani said. If he did so, however, it would have to be as a private citizen: Giuliani resigned last week, amid speculation that he may soon challenge Mayor Edward Koch.

Accompanied by Blumenthal, Kikilo also visited Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn, an area that had been the turf of some Pizza Connection Mafiosi. Kikilo, however, couldn't understand why anyone would frequent such a shabby area. He was particularly struck by the sight of a pothole big enough to accommodate two large trash cans.

"Then I realized the Mafia is reluctant to demonstrate their riches."

Views Murder Scene

He walked into what once was Joe and Mary's restaurant, where mobster Carmine Galante was gunned down in 1979 while eating lunch. Although the place is now a Chinese restaurant, Kikilo was able to get a look at the courtyard out back where Galante died, a cigar still clenched in his teeth.

"You feel some excitement," he said, his face becoming animated. "You can read about it, but when you actually see it, you start to grasp a little bit of something you need for the story."

But Kikilo's piece is not primarily atmospheric, dealing as it must with the finer points of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 and the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970.

Clutter Lingers On

The article is finished--all 10,000 words of it--but his desk still looks like a mob reporter's. There is a Mafia family organization chart tacked on the wall; three huge volumes of background from Robert Blakey, a Notre Dame expert on organized crime; videotapes of mob TV programs; an old U.S. Information Agency folder bulging with yellowing newspaper clips.

Kikilo also has a gift from one of Giuliani's assistants--a computer printout of the disposition of each defendant in the Pizza Connection trial, one of the longest and most complicated in American history.

"This was my savior," he said.

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