Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Murderous mobster arrested near Corleone, Sicily / NYTimes


La Strada
Originally uploaded by jeddah.
April 12, 2006
Police Seize Top Mafioso After 43 Years

By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
ROME, April 11 — Tipped off by a mundane delivery of laundry, the Italian police arrested Bernardo Provenzano, boss of all bosses of the Sicilian Mafia, on Tuesday. He had been on the run for 43 years, and the news was so big that it overtook coverage of the photo-finish Italian elections.

The police caught up with Mr. Provenzano, 73, in a farmhouse not far from Corleone, the hilltop Sicilian town made famous by Mario Puzo's "Godfather" novels.

In real life, Corleone spawned a vicious Mafia family, currently led by Mr. Provenzano, that dominated organized crime on the island for decades, leaving a trail of blood in murdered prosecutors, reporters and investigators. He has already been sentenced in absentia to life in prison at least six times as a member of the so-called Mafia Cupola, responsible for coordinating mob strategy.

The police had been monitoring Mr. Provenzano's wife and two sons, who returned to Sicily in 1993 when he became head of the Corleone family. On Tuesday investigators spotted a bundle of laundry being sent from her house to a remote farmhouse. As investigators explained it, they saw a hand come out from a door to take the package, and they decided to act.

Mr. Provenzano did not put up a struggle when the police special forces burst into the farmhouse. "He didn't say a word," the Palermo police commissioner, Giuseppe Caruso, told reporters at a packed news conference in Rome.

When Mr. Provenzano arrived at a Palermo police station, bystanders called out insults. Television newscasts showed an unruly crowd yelling "Assassin!" and "Bastard!" at Mr. Provenzano, a diminutive, silver-haired senior citizen dwarfed by the black-hooded police officers jostling him through.

Officials involved in the arrest said the preparations had begun several years ago. Working from one of the few known photographs of Mr. Provenzano — a 1959 snapshot — the police artificially aged the image on a computer, and picked up his trail when he underwent surgery in a clinic in Marseille, France, in 2003. Around a year ago, the circle began to "progressively close in around Provenzano and his accomplices," Giuseppe Pisanu, the interior minister, said at the news conference.

"The Mafia has lost its most prestigious leader," Mr. Pisanu said. "It has undergone an undeniable decapitation."

Mr. Caruso said cameras had been planted in fields surrounding Corleone, where, according to Pietro Grasso, Italy's top anti-Mafia prosecutor, the ailing mobster had come "to take refuge" near those "he most trusted."

Mr. Grasso said "an entire world" of professionals, business executives and politicians had aided Mr. Provenzano during his time on the run.

Mr. Provenzano's ability to outwit investigators for 43 years made him a lingering symbol for many Italians of the state's inability to eradicate the Mafia. And it raised suspicions that the elusive mobster had friends in high places.

Mafia turncoats arrested over the past decade confirmed to investigators that Mr. Provenzano was at the head of a criminal organization that controlled public works contracts and a sizable protection racket. Mr. Grasso said it was unlikely that the mobster would turn state's evidence, "though I hope I'm mistaken."

In a televised interview, Giancarlo Caselli, a prosecutor who once led Palermo's anti-Mafia team, warned that other important bosses had been captured in the past, "and this didn't mean the end of the Mafia."

See photos at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/12/world/europe/12mafia.html?ex=1144987200&en=739a11685510eafa&ei=5087%0A

This article is not part of geo testing, BTW.