Italian police have arrested the man said to be the new head of the Sicilian Mafia, along with 45 associates.
The dawn raid in Palermo netted 80-year-old jeweller Settimo Mineo. He was reportedly elected Cosa Nostra godfather at a Mafia meeting in May.
The Mafia suspects are accused of extortion, firearms offences, arson and other crimes.
The Sicilian Mafia – the Cosa Nostra – managed to rebuild its leadership, known as the Cupola, after it had not met for years, reports say. The godfather is also known as the “capo dei capi” – or boss of bosses.
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”.
‘I fell from the clouds’
In recent years police have hit the Cosa Nostra network hard. It was long handicapped by the fact that Toto Riina was in jail, but when he died the Mafia moved to rebuild the cupola without taking orders from a “godfather”.
Riina was notorious for his brutality. In 1992 two leading prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were blown up in Mafia hits. Six months later Riina was arrested.
Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica says Settimo Mineo was arrested on Falcone’s orders in 1984, and told his interrogators: “I don’t know who you’re talking about, I fell from the clouds.”
Mineo was jailed for five years in a big Mafia trial based on the Falcone investigation. He was rearrested in 2006 and spent another 11 years in jail.
A well-known “pentito” (police informer), Tommaso Buscetta, is reported to have provided intelligence about Mineo.
Italian media report that Mineo avoided using a mobile phone and preferred to walk, rather than travel by car. He allegedly ran Mafia operations in Pagliarelli, a central district in Palermo.
Valued by Riina, back in 1982 Mineo survived an ambush in which his brother Giuseppe died. Another Mineo brother, Antonino, was shot dead later.
The head of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission, Nicola Morra, said “the state has won”, commenting on Tuesday’s raid. He warned: “They will never give up – but nor shall we.”