A new book claims that fashion icon Gianni Versace was gunned down by Mafia over unpaid debts, and not by Filipino-American alleged serial killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan, who the book says was merely framed up.

Versace, 50, was said to be shot at the back of his head on the steps of his Miami mansion on July 15, 1997 by Cunanan, an alleged high-class gay prostitute, according to police and news reports.

The tragic incident made headlines across the globe and shocked the fashion world.

But the newly-released book “—by mafioso-turned-informer Giuseppe Di Bella as told to investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi — alleges that the Italian designer’s involvement with the organized crime is what actually got him killed, The (London) Daily Telegraph reports.

Di Bella, one-time member of the Calabrian Mafia known as the N’drangheta, was allegedly killed over debts he had with the Godfathers.

The book maintains that a Mafia godfather, identified as Paulo De Stefano, was using Versace to launder money.

Versace’s family — including Santo and Donatella, who now run the fashion empire — was angered by the new disclosures calling them “false and shameful,” but an official in Rome says they are investigating.

“We reserve the right to protect the memory and reputation of Gianni Versace in civil and criminal courts,” the Versace family statement reads in reaction to the controversial book released on Dec. 2, coinciding with what would have been Versace’s 64th birthday.

Santo Versace, chairman of the Gianni Versace group, is threatening legal action against the book and its author.

Di Bella told Nuzzi: “There were rivers of money from drugs, extortion, protection rackets, loan sharking, mountains of money and it had to be made clean. Bars, restaurants, property and luxury goods were used but also clean businesses like that of Versace.”

Di Bella also describes how the N’drangheta plotted to steal Versace’s ashes from a cemetery near his family home on Lake Como on New Year’s Eve 1997, but it was never carried out.

Giancarlo Capaldo, of the Rome-based anti Mafia department, said:

“We have opened a file into what Di Bella says — he is an informer and his information in the past has always proved correct.”

Cunanan — who later committed suicide following the killing of Versace — was framed for the murder, according to Di Bella and a fellow high-ranking mafia member, Filippo Barecca.

Both Di Bella and Barecca also confirmed that the dead turtle dove found beside Versace’s body was a calling card from enemies.

According to detective Frank Monte, who used to work for Versace, by the time of his death, the fashion designer was thinking of going public about the Mafia pressure on him — a guaranteed death warrant from the mob.

While many dismiss Di Bella and Barecca’s testimony as farfetched, the two men are regarded as highly reliable by prosecutors and anti-Mafia investigators, who have relied on information provided by them to secure mob convictions for a series of murder cases, including that of a judge and the former head of the Italian State Railways, according to Nuzzi.

On that fateful morning, the notoriously hot-tempered gay Italian designer appeared unusually relaxed, strolling in the Miami sunshine with the latest fashion magazines tucked under his arm, having learned his ear cancer was in remission and that a recent AIDS test was negative.

Upon arriving home, as he fiddled with the lock on the front gates of his palatial, art deco mansion, a stranger in a white shirt and grey shorts approached — and gunned him down with two close-range shots to the head and neck.

The killer then walked away calmly and climbed into a waiting car.

Martin Weinstein, who was at the scene, said: “I saw him lying in a pool of blood, with his face blown off. It was execution style.”

Bizarrely, a dead turtle dove was found beside Versace’s blood-spattered body, which some speculated could be a professional killer’s calling card.


SCENE OF THE CRIME: The mansion of Gianni Versace in Miami, Florida.


But very quickly, the police, and Versace’s family, dismissed these suspicions, with investigators pinning the blame on the 27-year-old Cunanan, who was allegedly seen running from the crime scene.

After an international manhunt, Cunanan was was found to have committed suicide in the upstairs bedroom of the Miami houseboat where he had been hiding out.

The case, as far as the police and the Versace family were concerned, was closed.

As for the presence of the dead dove, it was written off as a freak coincidence: detectives claimed the bird was simply hit by a bullet fragment as it flew overhead at the exact moment Cunanan opened fire.

According to police records, Cunanan had slain four other people prior to killing Versace during a three-month cross-country odyssey of death that landed him in the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.

The first known murder was that of his friend Jeffrey Trail, a former naval officer and propane salesman, on April 25, 1997, in Minneapolis.

The next victim was architect David Madson, who was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, on April 29, 1997, with gunshot wounds to the head.

Cunanan next drove to Chicago and killed 72-year-old Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer, on May 4, 1997.

Five days later, Cunanan, who took Miglin’s car, found his fourth victim in Pennsville, N.J. at the Finn’s Point National Cemetery, killing 45-year-old caretaker William Reese.

While the manhunt focused on Reese’s truck, Cunanan “hid in plain sight” in Miami Beach, Florida for two months between his fourth and fifth murders.

He even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, knowing that police routinely check pawn shop records for stolen merchandise, before he killed Versace.

The gun used by Cunanan for the murders was a Taurus semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber, which had been stolen from the first victim, Jeff Trail.

Eight days after murdering Versace, on July 23, 1997, Cunanan shot himself in the head in the upstairs bedroom aboard a houseboat he had broken into docked on the Intercoastal Waterway in Miami Beach, following a four-hour siege by a SWAT team.

The book does not offer any information if and how the crime family had any connection to Cunanan, or to his other victims.

At the time of the crimes, there were speculations that Cunanan’s motives were tied to a diagnosis of HIV infection.

However, an autopsy found him to be HIV-negative.

Born in National City, California, Cunanan is the son of Modesto Cunanan, a Filipino-American U.S. Navy man, who served in the Vietnam War; and Mary Anne Shilacci, an Italian-American.

According to reports, Modesto, who retired from the Navy in 1972, had been a successful stockbroker in San Diego, California, until becoming a fugitive himself in 1988 after being indicted on embezzlement.

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