Italy’s anti-mafia police arrest 11 suspected aides of Cosa Nostra boss

Italy's anti-mafia force on Tuesday arrested 11 suspected gangsters accused of aiding and abetting fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro, widely believed to head up the Sicilian mafia.

Italy's anti-mafia police arrest 11 suspected aides of Cosa Nostra boss
File photo showing anti-mafia police walking through Palermo, Sicily. Photo: AFP/DIA

The operation, which involved over 100 special agents, implicated mafia families in Vita and Salemi, two towns in western Sicily, a police statement said.

Authorities were set on the trail after 60 hectares (150 acres) of land in the region were sold for a price perceived to be too low.

“The real price of the land was far higher than the sale price… The difference, more than EUR200,000 ($246,700) was pocketed by members of Cosa Nostra,” said police, referring to the Sicilian organised crime group.

“Part of this money… was destined for the upkeep of fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro.”

READ ALSO: Citrus fruits and Cosa Nostra: The origins of the Sicilian mafia

Hunted by police since 1993, Messina Denaro, who turns 56 next month, is considered to be the successor of historic Cosa Nostra bosses Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, both of whom died recently in prison.

A former Cosa Nostra hitman, Messina Denaro was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for multiple murders. He was known for his ruthlessness and reportedly boasted he could “fill a cemetery” with his victims.

The only known photo of him dates back to the beginning of the 1990s.

Over the last two decades Italian police have increased arrests and seizures within his entourage, in a bid to isolate the notorious boss, a strategy which has so far failed to bear fruit.

In 2015, police discovered that Messina Denaro had abandoned modern methods of communication and was executing orders to his men via traditional “pizzini“: small bits of paper containing encoded messages.

Last December, 200 police officers searched homes and businesses belonging to known allies of the mobster in an attempt to uncover spots where the fugitive could be hiding.



Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.