This week’s big blow to the Mafia
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The Italian authorities have arrested 46 members of the Sicilian Mafia, including top leaders in the Palermo area, as part of a sweeping international operation spanning Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Italian arrests were announced on Tuesday, nipping in the bud an attempt to re-establish a ruling mob council for the province.One of those arrested was Settimio Mineo, 80, whom top mobsters from the area chose this year as the council’s leader, officials said.Mr. Mineo, the mob capo, or chief, of Palermo’s Pagliarelli district, was arrested along with the heads of the Villabate, Belmonte Mezzagno and Porta Nuova districts, as well as the bosses of 10 Mafia families from Palermo and the surrounding region, Italian officials said in a statement.

The arrests on Tuesday were the culmination of a two-year investigation by anti-Mafia prosecutors in Palermo aided by the Carabinieri, Italy’s military police force. The charges included association with the Mafia, illegal gun possession, arson and extortion, Italian officials said.

The four senior Mafia leaders have all served prison time.The council, known as the Cupola in Mafia-speak, aimed to coordinate illegal activities among the area’s principal crime families and make joint decisions on important issues, finding strength in numbers. The Sicilian Mafia had such a structure for decades, until it collapsed in the 1990s.

On Wednesday, 90 other people were arrested in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. They were believed to be part of a southern Italian criminal group known as the ’Ndrangheta and involved in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, according to Eurojust, the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit.

“This investigation takes us back in time” and to the “reaffirmation of the old rules of Cosa Nostra” under unified leadership, the Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said at a news conference on Tuesday. Col. Antonio Di Stasio, the Carabinieri provincial commander who oversaw the police role in the case, said the arrests aimed to take the wind out of the nascent organization’s sails.

“There is strength in numbers — that’s why we had to make these arrests, to stop illicit activities that could have been carried out because of the power that the Cupola gave its members,” he said in a telephone interview.



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