The latest raids followed a major swoop against the resurgent Sicilian mafia in December when 80-year-old Settimano Mineo was captured just before he was due to be officially anointed the new “boss of bosses” of the reconvened Mafia Commission or Cupola.
45 other suspects are being held on charges of extortion, illegal gun possession, arson, Mafia association and other crimes, investigators said.
Settimino Mineo as he left a police station after being arrested in December. Photo: Alessandro Fucarini/AFP
Among them were two apparently high-profile figures who police say quickly became informants and spilled the beans to police about clan leaders who were allegedly part of the Cupola.
“Like never before, within a month (of the December arrests) we had two new state witnesses. And not any old members, but two from the upper echelons,” Palermo's chief prosecutor chief Francesco Lo Voi told journalists.
“Both confirm that (the new Commission) was not a 'half Cupola' or 'small Cupola', it was not a case of some old has-been getting back into the game, but the rebirth of the Commission with experienced individuals,” he said.
Those leaders included Leandro Greco, grandson of famed mobster Michele Greco – dubbed “The Pope” – and Calogero Lo Piccolo, son of a powerful boss nicknamed “The Baron”, both arrested on Tuesday, a police statement said.
The two mafia heirs were cuffed along with Giovanni Sirchia, who was accused of ferrying both mobsters and secret messages back and forth, and four others accused of mafia extortion.
The informants also described attempts to breathe fresh life into the Cosa Nostra, nicknamed “the octopus” for its tentacled reach into all areas of society, according to media reports.
“They come from a family with a strong Mafia lineage. These are men of high standing, young men, which confirms our theory of a renewal which is rooted in historical and familial tradition,” Lo Voi said.
But the decision by the two informants to break their vow of silence, and so quickly, shows “there is no future, something that those who still belong to Cosa Nostra should understand”.
The Cupola, or Mafia Commission, had not met for years. Mafia hunters heard how at a summit in May the organisation had agreed on a return to the old rules, and appointed spokespersons for the various clans to improve communication.
But its attempt to appoint a new leader after the death in 2017 of former “boss of bosses” Toto Riina — nicknamed “The Beast” because of his cruelty — appeared to fail when police swooped on the reconvened Cupola in December.
Riina's presumed heir, Matteo Messina Denaro, is on the run, and other potential successors are now serving time under Italy's tough mafia prison regime.