‘New generation’ of young mafia heirs arrested

Anti-mafia police said today they had dealt a fresh blow to Italy's Cosa Nostra, arresting seven suspected “rising star” mobsters after two of the organised crime group turned witnesses.

'New generation' of young mafia heirs arrested
File photo showing anti-mafia police walking through Palermo, Sicily. Photo: AFP/DIA

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.

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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.



New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”