Italian police arrest new head of Sicilian mafia

Tommie Hansen  Flickr Creative Commons

Based on wiretaps, police determined that during a May 29 meeting of clan leaders in Palermo, Mineo had been elected head of the "cupola", the mob leadership.

The previous boss of bosses, Salvatore "Toto" Riina, died in prison past year after spending nearly a quarter of a century behind bars for ordering dozens of murders, including those of two of Italy's most celebrated anti-mob prosecutors.

Riina - who was nicknamed "The Beast" - died in prison a year ago aged 87.

"This is a sign that Cosa Nostra doesn't abandon its rules", Mr Lo Voi told a press conference.

Once all-powerful on Sicily, the world's most famous crime gang has been squeezed over the past 2 decades, with many bosses put behind bars, businesses sequestered and locals increasingly ready to defy it. Italian media showed pictures of the white-haired, bespectacled Mineo being led away by police, his handcuffed hands hidden beneath a coat.

Mineo had been previously sentenced to five years in jail for mafia-related crimes in a trial related to the death of anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone.

He was reportedly elected Cosa Nostra godfather at a Mafia meeting in May.

"The 46 arrests, and in particular the one of Settimo Mineo, represent one of the biggest blows inflicted on the Mafia by the state", Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Instagram.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted that it was "an extraordinary intervention" by the Carabinieri (the paramilitary police), "who have dismantled the new "cupola" of Cosa Nostra".

Both Falcone and Borsellino were murdered in 1992 on Riina's orders after verdicts were delivered. "So we found ourselves facing danger and for that reason the police intervened rapidly", Lo Voi said. It was the first time clan leaders had gathered since Riina's death, prosecutors said.

The Sicilian Mafia, commonly known as the Cosa Nostra, was formed in the 19 century and continues to be involved in various forms of organised crime, ranging from firearm trafficking, racketeering, extortion and armed robbery.

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