Bernardo Provenzano, the chief of the Sicilian mafia who has been on the run for more than four decades and was Italy’s most wanted man, was arrested near Corleone in Sicily on Tuesday, officials said.
It was the state’s biggest success against the mafia in more than 13 years.
Provenzano, known as the “Phantom of Corleone” after the hill town in Sicily made famous by the Godfather films, has been running the mafia since 1993, when former “boss of bosses” Toto Riina was arrested in the Sicilian capital Palermo.
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi expressed his delight over the arrest to Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, a statement from the presidential palace said. The news bumped even national election results off the top spot of television news bulletins.
Italy's 'super fugitive'
Provenzano, 73, has been wanted since 1963 and was known as Italy’s “super-fugitive.” The last picture police had of him before his arrest was taken in 1959 when he was 25.
He has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison in connection with the Mafia’s most notorious crimes over the past decades, including the killings in 1992 of top anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
Provenzano was arrested in a farmhouse in the countryside near Corleone and was due to be taken to a jail in Palermo later on Tuesday, police said.
As a young man he was known as “Binnu the tractor” because of the way he mowed down the enemies of the Corleone clan.
His ability to evade capture for so many years while remaining in Sicily had become legendary.
Last year, Italy’s national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Pietro Grasso, caused a storm by saying Provenzano had been protected by politicians and policemen.