About a dozen Mafia hitmen armed with assault rifles and explosives were ready to assassinate then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo during his trip to Italy in 1992 before mob bosses called off the attack as a result of his tight security, a killer says. The execution was planned as retaliation for the U.S. letting former Sicilian Mafia members start new lives in America if they ratted out their bosses, convicted assassin Maurizio Avola told the Guardian through correspondence.

Avola, currently serving life in prison for 43 murders and 40 robberies, said his godfather, Aldo Ercolano, told him Cuomo would be a great target for them, after the governor’s trip was announced. The murder was supposed to occur in daylight in the main square in the Sicilian city of Messina, but once it was found that Cuomo had many bodyguards as well as a bulletproof car, the hit was called off.

“Cuomo was a symbol of America, which during those years hosted collaborators who wanted out of Cosa Nostra and then got their bosses arrested. His death would have sent a strong signal to New York,” Avola told the Guardian. “It would have made them understand what happens to those who stand in the Mafia’s way.”

Avola — also known as “Ice Eyes” because of his cold gaze — is thought to have killed 80 people during his time in the Mafia before turning informant. Believed to have been betrayed by his boss when he was arrested in 1993, he has since gone on to give police details about the Mafia that has led to investigations.

Rumors about Cuomo having ties to the Mafia were persistent during his political career, and although many news media investigated, nothing concrete has ever been revealed. The Sicilian Mafia were known to kill those who got in their way, including Italian anti-Mafia judges Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone.

Mario Cuomo, a son of Italian immigrants, died in 2015. His son Andrew is the current governor of New York.