Scores of arrests deal blow to Sicilian mafia

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Palermo (Italy), Dec 14 (IANS/AKI) Sixty three people were arrested in Palermo Monday in a massive pre-dawn sweep against the Sicilian mafia clan associated with notorious jailed mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo and his son, Sandro.

Palermo’s public prosecutor Francesco Messineo said the arrests were “comforting” and urged business owners to continue reporting mafia extortionists. This had a “symbolic significance” in the fight against paying ‘protection’ money, Messineo said.

“We have something new here. For the first time, the wall of mistrust has come tumbling down,” he added.

“This anti-mafia campaign aims to create a climate in which a business owner can work well and manage his own affairs,” he said.

Monday’s arrests were the fifth operation in the widening so-called ‘addiopizzo’ ‘good bye bribes’ investigation in the region. Those arrested were accused of extortion, criminal association, drug trafficking, possession of fire arms, falsely registered land holdings.

Mafia nicknames emerging from the arrests were found on small pieces of paper in Lo Piccolo’s compound and showed clan members went by names like “Y”, “Pizza” and “Camion”, meaning “truck”.

The Lo Piccolos were arrested near Palermo in November, 2007 after being on the run since 1998. Lo Piccolo, a former right had man to ‘boss of bosses’ Bernardo Provenzano’ took over as head of the Sicilian mafia when Provenzano was jailed in April, 2006 and after being on the run for 40 years.

Investigators with the ‘addiopizzo’ anti-racket group, together with a citizens’ movement of the same name helped police make the arrests.

The citizens’ group was started by business owners reacting to living under the shadow of the mafia in Sicily, where for generations business owners are forced to hand a slice of their monthly of earnings to the mob.

Many initiatives, including discounts to home buyers that don’t pay the ‘pizzo’ or bribe, have been attempted across Sicily. The ‘goodbye bribes’ campaign has allowed investigators to arrested nearly 200 people.

On a larger scale, police have identified mafia infiltration of such public works projects as the building of a new airport in Palermo, a day-care centre and a military barracks, underscoring the links between politics and organised crime.

Providing information by citizens to pay bribes was fundamental in tipping off investigators, which together with papers found in Lo Piccolo’s compound enabled investigators to make the massive crackdown on the alleged Sicilian mafia members.


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