Police arrest alleged Sicilian mafia boss and 45 mob suspects
Italian police struck a blow against the Sicilian mafia yesterday after arresting its alleged boss and more than 40 other suspects.
Settimo Mineo (80) is believed to have succeeded the former head of Cosa Nostra, Toto 'The Beast' Riina, who ordered dozens of murders during a bloody reign of terror but died last year.
Mineo was arrested in a dawn raid in Palermo along with 45 alleged mafia members, who face charges of aggravated extortion, arson, mafia association and illegal possession of weapons.
Mineo, who ran a family jewellery business, was allegedly behind an attempt to rebuild the 'cupola' or ruling commission of Cosa Nostra in order to streamline its command structure and strengthen its position.
The cupola held a secret meeting in Palermo in May, the first gathering of mob families for 25 years, at which it reportedly decided to formally anoint Mineo as the head of Cosa Nostra.
His election marked a shift of power away from Corleone, the hilltop town that was Cosa Nostra's main base for years and was made famous by 'The Godfather' novels and films.
Police obtained information about the meeting by wire-tapping the phones of participants, including Francesco Colletti, an alleged senior member of the organised crime network.
It was "a beautiful meeting, very serious, with country people, old people", he told his driver during one intercepted conversation. At the end of discussions, "we all got up and kissed".
Mineo, allegedly a member of Cosa Nostra all his adult life, was arrested in 1984 in a case pursued by anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, who was murdered by the mob in a car bombing in 1992.
Mineo served five years in prison but was rearrested in 2006 and served another 11 years behind bars.
"The arrests... represent one of the biggest blows inflicted on the mafia by the state. Mineo had been elected 'heir' of Toto Riina after his death," Luigi Di Maio, deputy prime minister, wrote on Instagram. "There is no more room for this type of scum in Italy."
Notably absent from the list of arrests was the notorious Matteo Messina Denaro, a mafia boss who has been on the run since 1993.
The 56-year-old, a former hitman, had also been considered a potential new head of Cosa Nostra after the death of Riina.
Known in Sicilian dialect as "U Cortu" or Shorty because of his diminutive stature, he conducted a reign of terror in Sicily for nearly 20 years until his arrest in 1993.
But he ultimately contributed to the weakening of Cosa Nostra by provoking the state with the murders of Mr Falcone and another high-profile investigator, after which Italian police and investigators poured resources into arresting mobsters and confiscating their assets. (© Daily Telegraph London)