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MaltaToday 30 October 2022

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10 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 30 OCTOBER 2022 SPECIAL FEATURE BIG Frank's ways created enemies. Despite having countless men to do his bid- ding for the kind of cash he had on offer, the enmity with Caruana and other associates of his would breed a culture of vengeance that was to reach fever pitch inside Soho. The first attack came on 5 Novem- ber, 1966: an explo- sion at the Gigi Club on 62, Frith Street, in the early hours at 4am, by a bomb left in a plastic bag by the doorway, of sufficient violence that could have killed anyone in the vicinity of the ex- plosion. Weeks later on 25 November at 2:35am, a second one at the Keyhole Club, on 55, Old Compton Street – both prop- erties owned by Big Frank Mifsud and Bernie Silver. Mifsud dismissed the Gigi in- cident as the work of a lunatic. But after the Keyhole explosion, he offered a reward of £500 to the West End fraternity for informa- tion that could lead to the culprits, raising it to £1,000, with no success. Gang warfare this was, but generally even Soho's gang- sters were aware that such actions could not touch innocent passers-by or other criminal gangs. "Firebombs like these were an overt act of putting the frighteners on each other: warning shots," Howard Raymond recalls. "The Maltese fought amongst themselves. It never crossed over. For us, it wasn't a problem. It wasn't Chicago." But the worst attack would happen just three months later. It was 1am on Greek Street on Thursday, 2 February, 1967. The Americano Club, a three-storey gam- bling house and striptease club on Greek Street, was in full swing – a typ- ical scene where gamblers and punt- ers congregated in a gaming room set on the top floor above a porn bookstore, run by Maltese bouncers and croupiers. Suddenly, it was mayhem: flames roared up a funnel- like stairway, en- gulfing the entire house. The strong smell of petrol filled the air. Strippers and their MaltaToday editor Matthew Vella spent the last three years researching the Maltese and British national archives and over 1,000 newspaper stories to piece together the story of a particular criminal class: 'Il- Maltin ta' Soho'. In this excerpt from Passport To Vice, published by Horizons, a firebomb attack on a Soho club owned by 'Big Frank' Mifsud shows the scale of violence meted out between the Maltese denizens of London's red- light district Bombs and a hit on Big Frank The strong smell of petrol filled the air. Strippers and their male audience rushed out. Greek Street was filled with shouting and screaming, but the gamblers, mostly Cypriots and Maltese, were trapped in the rooms above.

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