The Guerini-Francisci Vendetta

From its very beginning, postwar heroin production in Marseille had been so dominated by the Guerinis, and their operations were so extensive, that some of their subordinates, such as Dominique and Jean Venturi, earned independent reputations as major traffickers.

Their only serious rival was Marcel Francisci, the owner of a lucrative international gambling syndicate. Described by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics as a long-time "understudy" to Spirito and "an important figure Francisci is also a veteran of the wartime in the French underworld," (62) resistance and was awarded four medals for his wartime heroics." (63) Although they coexisted happily enough throughout the 1950s, when the Guerinis clearly had the upper hand, Francisci's growing influence in the 1960s produced serious tensions. Competition over control of some casino interests provided the spark. A silent war began in 1965 that continued for three years with little more than extended obituary notices in the French press. In the end the Guerinis were decisively defeated-with Antoine himself one of the murdered victims. (64) On June 23, 1967, two assassins pumped eleven bullets into Antoine Guerini in a Marseille gas station. (65) Antoine's murder marked the beginning of the end for the Guerini dynasty, and Barthelemy's downfall was not long in coming.

During Antoine's funeral at Calenzana, Corsica, on July 4, two Marseille burglars took advantage of the absence of the family retainers to break into Antoine's villa and steal family jewelry worth thousands of dollars. (66) Unless Barthelemy acted quickly to avenge his brother's death and catch the burglars, the blow to his prestige would utterly destroy his authority over the milieu. Barthelemy's rage did not go unnoticed, and on July 10 one of the burglars, Jean Paul Mandroyan, returned the jewels, while the other thief fled to Spain. On July 22 the police found Mandroyan shot dead-and a witness reported that he had seen Barthelemy forcing Mandroyan into his Mercedes just before the young burglar's murder. On August 4 police entered the Guerinis' Club Mediterranee and arrested Barthelemy and his five bodyguards. All six were armed. (67)

Barthelemy's trial began on schedule January 5, 1970, but from the beginning the prosecution suffered reverses. In his distinguished black suit, carefully trimmed hair, and a red lapel pin indicating his wartime decoration, Barthelemy hardly looked the part of a desperate gangster. On the second day of the trial, the key prosecution witness retracted his testimony. (68) A road test proved that it was impossible for Barthelemy's Mercedes to have been the murderer's car. With each day of testimony the prosecution's case grew weaker, as the defense attorney demonstrated that most of the state's evidence was circumstantial. In his summation, the prosecutor could not help admitting his failure and demanded that the Guerini gang must be sentenced, not so much because of their possible guilt, but because they were criminal types who were a menace to Marseille. (69)

On January 15 the jury returned a verdict of guilty: Barthelemy received twenty years; his younger brother Pascal and two others, fifteen years apiece. Spectators screamed "scandal." Cries of "This is justice?" were heard. And the defendants themselves shouted "Innocent, innocent, innocent." (70)

Why were the Guerinis convicted? There had been serious accusations against them in the past that could have become solid cases had the Ministry of Justice been interested. But the Guerinis were guaranteed immunity to local investigations by their relationship with Marseille's Socialists. However, by 1967 Socialist party influence had declined substantially after a decade of Gaullist rule. Francisci, according to informed French observers, had earned considerable political influence through his services to the Gaullist government. During the early 1960s, he had helped organize a group of Corsican gangsters known popularly as the barbouzes to combat a right-wing terrorist campaign following General de Gaulle's announcement of Algerian independence. As the owner of Paris's most exclusive casino, Cercle Haussmann, Francisci was in daily contact with highranking government officials. (71) He is a close personal friend of a former Gaullist cabinet minister and is himself a Gaullist provincial counselor in Corsica.