The Sicilian shadows of Mr. Palella from Acireale, who bewitched the world with his scooter


Who is Mr. Palella? If they ask in the salons of world finance, but also the dozens of Italian mayors who have handed over the keys of their cities to the “king of electric scooters”. Already crowned by Forbes, on the cover of the Italian edition, as a globalized guru of smart mobility, he confesses to Panorama his expansion plan in Italy: “The Covid crisis has convinced mayors and governors to open their doors to us. And now all I do is receive calls for plans and proposals. ”

And so Salvatore Palella from Acireale, 32-year-old globetrotter now transplanted to New York (where he lives with his wife, Samantha Hoopes, a former Sports Illustrated model, who gave him a son), he runs at stratospheric speed. On the scooters of his Helbiz, a start-up launched in Milan in 2018 (€ 8,000 in sales up to two years ago), now the first Italian and European rental operator and fifth in the USA, which received $ 8 million in new capital from the giant Chinese Zhonglu Group, which with Forever Sharing acquired 5% of the Palella company, valuing it 160 million. With the dream, no longer secret of landing on the stock exchange: Nasdaq and Piazza Affari.

But who is Palella? The protagonist of the phantasmagorical fairy tale of a young Acese who has made himself: starting at 17, working as a waiter at McDonald’s in Dublin, studying (but not graduating) at Cattolica in Milan, the city where he launches a start up of citrus trade.

Palella is president of Acireale Calcio from 2012 to 2013. And it is in this line of official curriculum that the bad Sicilian memories lurk. Some still keep it as a memorabilia, that poster with which the ultras plastered all the walls of the city: “Let’s free the Acireale! Palella get out! Let’s chase him away », the phrases to present a protest sit-in. The young startupper’s balloon toy has already broken. Because? “After a phase of general euphoria, due to the innovative ideas expressed by Palella, the mood soon changed, because the resolutions, due to various problems, were not translated into concrete facts”, Orazio Sorbello, man, remembers today. grenade symbol, at the time director of the technical area.

The anecdotes, however, in Acireale have remained engraved in the memory. Not just fans. “I remember our travels of hope to Credito Siciliano in Piazza Duomo – reveals a former footballer who asks us for anonymity – to collect salaries”. But the elusive bank transfer never comes. “It is abroad abroad”, the refrain with which President Palella justifies the delays. «He believed that, being footballers, he could make fun of us. But when some of us – our source says – began to ask for Cro, the president provided non-existent numbers ».

But you don’t live on money alone. The grandeur of Palella at Acireale Calcio is also made of wonderful suggestions. Like the first night race in history at the “Tupparello”, Acireale-Ragusa on 19 January 2013. It is not a good thing, however, when the president announces the direct history of a race on RaiSport Sat. “I have close friends in Piazza Mazzini”, he replies to those who point out to him that an event of the World Ski Championships has already been scheduled that day at that time in the schedule. “But not even Tarantula could authorize such a thing,” insists a skeptic. “I don’t know this Signor Tarantola,” he replies. Annamaria Tarantola is the president of Rai from 2012 to 2015. And then the purchases, with the team in Serie D, of the ex Inter striker, David Suazo, attested by the “big snake” of SkySport and then denied, as well as the negotiation with Nicolas Cordova. Until the presence of Andrea Russo, son of a Bobo Vieri partner in the brand “Baci & Abbracci”. “He will be the sponsor of the Acireale”, the presidential announcement. “No, I’m here to spend a few days off at the invitation of Salvo,” the reply to a journalist who presses Russo.

Protagonist of the Milanese nightlife and the golden world of footballers & tissues, Palella shows off specimens of vippume in Acireale. A direct witness tells of a visit to the headquarters of Palella (only sometimes a guest of uncles in Aci Platani) in those months: a b & b in via Sciuti. Where for some time a model also stays, introduced to friends as “Puyol’s ex-girlfriend” (Charles Puyol, Barcelona champion). And here gossip crosses with healthcare. “The girl – said a direct source – wanted to have her breast and Palella had her operated by an Etna cosmetic surgeon, paying cash advance and postdated checks, placed on the Acireale Calcio current account, which the doctor was unable to collect ».

But Acese’s bad adventure is black on white in some judicial documents. Palella ends up, as an alleged victim of extortion, in the “Charon” trial, part of the most famous “Iblis”, on the transport mafia. The young president of the Acireale comes up in this story for the 15 thousand euros that he is asked to take over the club’s brand. Accused are the entrepreneur Santo Massimino, who for the prosecutors “threatened him by asserting his membership of the mafia association of Catania” and even Enzo Ercolano, son of Pippo Ercolano, the historic master builder husband of the sister of Nitto Santapaola.

It is Palella himself who tells his truth to the investigators: at the end of June 2013, he allegedly “had an agreement to sponsor the company with a Nike Italia distributor, but he immediately received a warning from Massimino’s lawyer for the improper use of the Acireale Calcio 1946 brand”. At the end of July Palella meets at the Bellavista Massimino hotel, asking for a discount (the logo for 12 thousand euros), but the negotiation is bad. “You don’t know who I am”, is the phrase that Palella attributes to the interlocutor, “enough to reveal what his judicial background had been”. The president of Acireale does not go to report. But he turns to Herculaneum, “thinking that his personality could manage to stem” Maximinus, he will then tell the prosecutors. A disastrous strategy: because Herculaneum too, nervous because the future Mr. Helbiz, “spent his name on events that didn’t concern him”, begins to push him: “If you don’t pay I’ll break your horns!”.

From the pan to the embers. Maximin’s request reaches 20 thousand euros. Palella feels in a dead end. And he asks Ignazio Ruvolo (former president of Ribera, appointed ds of the Acireale in view of a merger that has been nuanced) to make a transfer of 5 thousand euros to Massimino, because, he confides, “if I do not respect the word given, someone will break my ass”.

These convulsive phases they are told in the intercepts of “Charon”. Herculaneum calls Palella’s father, Giuseppe (citrus trader), “who, however, at that time – writes the investigating judge in the ordinance – did not have enough money even to” buy groceries “”. Maximinus, after numerous faded promises, does not trust the interlocutor. «He came with another person telling me that they will make the transfer at 3pm and give me the Cro I don’t understand if he is crazy or just a swindler. Let’s wait. thank you », he wrote in a text message to Herculaneum. Who decides to deal with the issue of chest with Palella, already the object of his anger: «… you are an emeritus, great huge toilet! Unworthy! … Sbirru! … Carabinieri! … And all that can be there is you! You don’t miss anything … »

But between the lines there is also a certain familiarity between alleged extortionist and alleged extortion. That they damage you. An interception of 13 October 2013 is significant.

Herculaneum: Because you are shit. .. because you are crap coppole … do you understand? Did you bring the money shit?

scull: It is not fair that you speak like this …

IS.: … (incomprehensible) … money shit …

P .: no

IS.: shit …

S .: no, I didn’t bring it to her


IS.: Palella … Palella … Listen to me Palella … cu cucca chi chi picciriddi, in matina update shit … do you understand?

P .: yes … you don’t understand …

IS.: and I don’t have to sleep with children … because I’m not someone who can lie down with children … with dishonored people … because you are a dishonor for you and your family …

P .: all right

IS.: because you didn’t have to break my balls to me … you had to stay at your house, you didn’t break my balls to me … you erased the surname Palella and called yourself in another way … you did everything … you ate the honor of your father … your mother … your sisters …

P: okay then the facts will prevail …

IS: my good repute … what facts? That the truth is that you are scamming … you are 23 years old and it is 5 years that you put it in the ass in all of Italy … what facts?

P: yes, yes it’s fine

IS: what facts … okay, answer me like this …

Maximinus and Herculaneum are acquitted “because the fact does not exist” from the charge of attempted extortion with the aggravating circumstance of the mafia method. But it is the offended party that saves them. Palella’s testimony to the trial is emblematic, urged in the courtroom by a prosecutor like Antonino Fanara. Which makes him admit that “I met a friend of my father, Enzo Ercolano, who was a person who saw me grow up as a kid because he knew me through my father” to whom the scion of the mafia boss “was linked by an excellent working relationship and like all the excellent working relationships, then it could lead to a business lunch ».

Absolution finally comes. Palella, reads the motivation of the sentence “has repeatedly stated that he has never been intimidated by Maximin or Herculaneum, even considering the reproaches of the latter as” paternal “and characterized by a” colorful “language”. Palella, as the public prosecutor notes in the courtroom, remits the testimony in which he speaks of “threats” by Massimino and says that Herculaneum “turned to me with the same tone” saying “if you don’t pay I’ll break your horns”. The involvement of the mafia in the Acireale Calcio brand does not hold up. Herculaneum “was angry on a friendly, paternal level” and Maximinus receives the 5 thousand euros “voluntarily and freely”.

In the process, as heads, there is also Rocco Musolino, Guardian angel in the months as president of Acireale with the rental service with driver. “He said he had been defrauded by Palella for the sum of € 86,000.00 and to this end had turned to a lawyer to recover the money”, reads the ruling of 2019.

Palella disappears from Acireale. Contested by the fans, with the failed company and the embarrassment of that gentleman of his uncle, Angelo Tropea, municipal employee and actor in two episodes of the fiction Commissioner Montalbano, to which the company’s shares had been transferred by Rosario Pennisi and Giuseppe Cocuzza. Palella shows up again, in football, in July 2018, when he sends a bank transfer – this time authentic – of 20 thousand euros to the grenade company to enroll in Serie D. He is already called “the new Italian Elon Musk” in the jet-set of finance. And the past is a foreign land. Almost.

Twitter: @MarioBarresi

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