- "We'll gladly put you at the helm of our little fleet. But our ships must all sail in the same direction."
- ―Licio Lucchesi[src]
An important figure in Italian politics, Lucchesi also had significant ties to the Mafia. He was known in the Sicilian underworld as Don Lucchesi. Along with Archbishop Gilday and the Swiss banker Frederick Keinszig, he had looted Immobiliare of several hundred million dollars. It was unknown exactly what position he held, but Lucchesi was believed to even have his fingers on the strings in the Italian Government. He was believed to be the Grand Master of P2 and the liaison between the Mafia and the Italian government.
The Immobiliare plot
- "It's not personal, it's only business. You should know. Godfather..."
- ―Licio Lucchesi[src]
In 1979, Lucchesi was afraid that Vatican officials would notice the missing money. To put it back, he put together a scheme to persuade Michael Corleone to purchase the Holy See's 25 percent share in Immobiliare. Michael was already Immobiliare's largest single shareholder, and controlled six seats on the company's 13-member board. With the Vatican's stake, Michael would have acquired controlling interest.
Once Michael transferred the money to the Vatican Bank, however, Lucchesi revealed he had no intention of turning over control of Immobiliare, and so ordered Gilday and Keinszig to stall the deal. They were inadvertently helped by Pope Paul VI's illness; under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the pope had to personally ratify the deal. Lucchesi offered to help clear the deadlock, on condition that Michael do business with him.
Meanwhile, Lucchesi, through his ally Don Altobello, made a deal with Joey Zasa, the boss of the Corleone family's criminal operations. In exchange for Altobello and Lucchesi's backing of his bid to become capo di tutti capi of the Five Families, Zasa agreed to have Michael killed. Although Zasa's assassination attempt put him in a position of power, he failed to kill Michael or his new protégé, Vincent Mancini. Shortly thereafter, Vincent (acting without Michael's knowledge) assassinated Zasa, much to Altobello and Lucchesi's relief, as Zasa's media seeking nature threatened their plans.
The counter plot
- "Let me be your friend. Even the strongest man needs friends."
"I'm flattered. But you're a man of finance and politics, Don Lucchesi, these are things I don't understand."
"You understand guns? Finance is a gun. Politics, is knowing when to pull the trigger."
- ―Licio Lucchesi and Vincent Mancini[src]
Soon thereafter, Michael, Vincent, and the rest of the family traveled to Sicily, where Don Tommasino informed them of Lucchesi's nature. On Michael's instructions, Vincent presented himself to Altobello, claiming that he was dissatisfied with Michael and willing to defect. Altobello introduced Vincent to Lucchesi, who explains their whole scheme to him. As Vincent returned to Michael to tell him of the plot, Altobello hired Mosca and Spara to kill Michael.
Days later, the Pope dies, and Cardinal Lamberto, a reformer and friend of Michael's, is elected Pope John Paul I. This frightened Lucchesi, who believed that the new Pontiff would authorize the Immobiliare deal, and expose their criminal dealings. The Pope does indeed approve the Immobiliare deal, and begins an investigation of Keinszig's financial dealings. Lucchesi ordered Gilday to arrange the Pope's death, by slipping some poison into his evening tea.
Michael formally retired from the Mafia, naming Vincent his successor. As his first act, Vincent ordered Lucchesi killed. During Anthony Corleone's performance at the Teatro Massimo, Lucchesi was visited by Michael's old friend and bodyguard from Sicily, Calò, who gave him Michael's message 'Power wears out those who do not have it' and stabbed Lucchesi in the neck with his own glasses. Calò was immediately killed by Lucchesi's bodyguard.
Behind the scenes
- Coppola said in his audio commentary that the figure of Lucchesi should be easily recognizable to Italian audiences. One possible model is seven-time Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Calò's whisper Il potere logora chi non ce l'ha is an aforisma of Andreotti meaning power wears out those that don't have it. They also wear thick horn rimmed glasses and have similar hair styles.
- Another model is Licio Gelli, the leader of the secret P2 Masonic lodge. When Vincent told Michael that Lucchesi was trying to have him killed, he mentioned that P2 was likely involved.
- Lucchesi also bears a resemblance to New York crime boss Thomas Lucchese, from whom Lucchesi's name possibly derived.
- Lucchesi was originally to have been killed by having his neck snapped, an image that still features in several trailers, but eventually Coppola decided on a more bloody demise. This caused problems with the censors, and several seconds of footage had to be trimmed.