November 5, 2007 / 12:32 PM / 11 years ago

Italy police arrest mafia "boss of bosses"

PALERMO, Sicily (Reuters) - Salvatore Lo Piccolo, who magistrates believe is the Sicilian Mafia’s new “boss of bosses”, was arrested on Monday after nearly a quarter of a century on the run, police said.

Italian state police pose with Salvatore Lo Piccolo (C), who magistrates believe is the Sicilian Mafia's new "boss of bosses", after his arrest in Palermo November 5, 2007. REUTERS/Polizia Di Stato/Handout

Lo Piccolo, 65, was arrested with his 32-year-old son, Sandro, and two other Mafia bosses.

The four are among the top 30 most wanted Mafia suspects in Italy and were arrested in a raid on a country house outside the Sicilian capital Palermo where they were holding a summit.

Police fired a few shots during the raid but no one was injured. As he was being arrested, the younger Lo Piccolo told his father: “I love you, Dad,” according to local media reports.

Magistrates believe the elder Lo Piccolo, whose Mafia nickname is “the Baron,” took over the reins of the crime organisation after the arrest last year of former “boss of bosses” Bernardo Provenzano.

“We are really pleased with this operation because these people are not just fugitives but Mafia chiefs who were wielding their power,” anti-Mafia magistrate Francesco Messineo told the Italian news agency Ansa.

Sicily’s regional governor, Salvatore Cuffaro, said he hoped the arrest of Lo Piccolo would be “a mortal, definitive blow to Cosa Nostra”, using the name of the Sicilian Mafia.

The arrests took place on the day Sicilians pay tribute each year to the victims of the Mafia, mostly magistrates such as Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were killed by bombs in 1992.

Lo Piccolo began his crime career as a bodyguard for a Sicilian mobster and worked his way up the organisation until he took over after Provenzano’s arrest in 2006. He has been on the run since 1983.

After Provenzano’s arrest Lo Piccolo fought for the Mafia’s leadership against another contender, Matteo Messina Denaro, magistrates believe.

Provenzano, who was known as “the tractor” because he mowed down his enemies as a young hit man, took on legendary status because he was on the run for 43 years.

In the 18 months since Provenzano’s arrest there have been four Mafia killings that investigators say may have been part of a battle between Lo Piccolo and Denaro for leadership of the crime group.

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