Anti-Mafia officers arrested six suspects for murder in a swoop following a lengthy investigation which revealed the reorganisation of the Santa Maria di Gesu clan, which was once one of the most dangerous in the Italian island.
Giuseppe Greco, 53, among those slapped in handcuffs, was elected chief of the Palermo neighbourhood's gang earlier in the year in a tense vote which saw mobsters ordered to “put up your hand to show your friendship”.
Greco, nicknamed “Pino the Uncle”, was snapped by police photographers as his henchmen paid him respect by kissing his forehead in an ancient Mafia tradition, with even the older gangsters bowing to his command.
Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said the investigation was “extraordinary, in that the Mafiosi are caught on tape talking about their rules, the organisation and its history”.
They can also be heard uttering the term “Cosa Nostra”, their name for the Mafia, for the first time in decades – a sign of their growing boldness after a period in which the organised crime group had fallen quiet, investigators said.
Wiretaps in a local barbers shop captured the lead-up to the vote, with various senior members of the clan declaring they would rather play second fiddle to Greco, with one getting laughs for declaring he was too “gaga” for the job.
SOUNDTRACK TO MURDER
The chief's new right-hand man, Natale Gambino, 57, is later heard telling the 30 or so men Greco commands that orders must never be disobeyed: “When we screw around, we screw around … (but) when we talk about Cosa Nostra, we talk about Cosa Nostra”.
And the orders came quickly, including the one to mow down a 29-year-old accused of involvement in the injury of one of their own men.
As Mirko Sciacchitano was shot dead with a 9mm pistol, two senior members of the clan were sitting watching from a distance in a car they did not know was wiretapped by the police.
The shots ring out clearly on the recording, and one of the mobsters can be heard singing softly as the bullets fly.
The Sicilian Mafia, dubbed “Cosa Nostra” or “Our Thing”, was the country's most powerful organised crime syndicate in the 1980s and 1990s, but its power has diminished following years of investigations and mass arrests.
It also faces fierce underworld competition from the increasingly powerful Naples-based Camorra and Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.
Mafiosi in Paterno, a town near Catania in eastern Sicily, hit the headlines earlier this month after members taking part in a religious procession stopped to pay homage to a local boss.
Politicians reacted with fury to the news a group carrying a Madonna statue was caught on camera as it stopped in front of the boss's house and dipped the statue several times in a ritual to show respect, as the soundtrack to the “Godfather” films rang out in the background.