‘Godfather’ arrest a crucial blow to Italy’s mafia, say police

After arresting its new head, police said the Cosa Nostra are "having a hard time" in Sicily at the moment.

'Godfather' arrest a crucial blow to Italy's mafia, say police
Settimino Mineo was arrested last week. Photo: Alessandro Fucarini/AFP

The arrest of “Godfather” Settimino Mineo has dealt Cosa Nostra a crucial blow as it tries to reorganise after the violent leadership of the Corleone family, Italy's top anti-Mafia policeman told AFP.

Police arrested Mineo, 80, and at least 45 others in Sicily last Tuesday just before he was due to be officially anointed the new “boss of bosses” at the first meeting of mafia clans, or “Cupola”, for years.

“The arrest of Settimo Mineo was an important operation because it's a kind of preventative operation at a time when Cosa Nostra is trying to reorganise,” Giuseppe Governale, the head of Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA), told AFP.

“Cosa Nostra is having a hard time, they don't even completely control drug trafficking on the island but have to make alliances with the 'Ndrangheta (the mafia of nearby Calabria) for resupply.”

Mineo was the head of one of the 15 Mafia family groupings in Palermo province, with each grouping having two to four families.

“Four other group heads were arrested with him as well as several family heads, so this is important at a time when Cosa Nostra is trying to find an heir to Toto Riina,” Governale said.

Sicily's Mafia has historically been headed by a family from Palermo, Governale said, but that was turned upside down when the Corleone family took over in the 1960s, with unusual violence.

“When the Corleones took over there were a lot of conflicts. Some Mafiosi fled but now they're slowly returning, given that the Corleones are no longer in charge,” he said.

The last overall Mafia boss was the notorious Riina, who died in prison last year, and a reconvened “Cupola” was to anoint Mineo as his heir after meeting in May for the first time since 1993 – when Riina was arrested.

Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were proteges of Luciano Liggio, who headed the Corleonesi Mafia faction in the 1960s.
Together the three men from Corleone, around 1.5 hours drive south of Palermo, took the Mafia in the Sicilian capital by surprise using daring and, above all, violence.

“This short-circuited Cosa Nostra's general logic,” Governale said.

“The Mafia used measured violence with precision, like a surgeon uses a scalpel, sometimes a little excessively, but the Corleones' virulence was incredible, even for the other bosses,” he said.

While many in Italy and abroad considered fugitive Mafioso Matteo Messina Denaro the real boss of Cosa Nostra, Governale says the organised crime group is “light-years away from seeing Matteo Messina Denaro as its boss.”

Hunted by police since 1993, Denaro, 56, was also considered to be a successor to Riina and Provenzano, who also died recently in prison.

Denaro played an important role in the 1980s and 1990s in Trapani in western Sicily, but police operations to try to find him have had the collateral effect of weakening any criminal structure that would consider him a boss.

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

“Now, because of his operational absence on the ground, he would have to affirm his leadership,” Governale said.



Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.