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Three arrests after alleged Mafia boss caught

Italian police on Wednesday arrested three people suspected of helping Italy’s No. 1 fugitive and reputed Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, who was captured a day earlier.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police on Wednesday arrested three people suspected of aiding Italy’s No. 1 fugitive and reputed Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, who was captured a day earlier after more than four decades on the run.

Giuseppe Gualtieri, head of operations for police in Palermo, Sicily, told Sky TG24 television the three newly arrested people were Provenzano’s “associates, who took care of keeping the boss in touch with the outside, with his exchange of communications, packages, help, even from a logistical point of view” while he was in hiding.

Provenzano, the reputed Mafia “boss of bosses,” was captured Tuesday in a farmhouse outside his power base of Corleone — the Sicilian town made famous in the “Godfather” movies.

Overnight, he was transferred from a police station in Palermo to an isolation cell in Terni, in Umbria on the Italian mainland, where he can be monitored around the clock, the ANSA news agency reported. It quoted unidentified sources as saying the 73-year-old could be transferred again because his health is not good.

Gualtieri said Provenzano’s capture was a “point of departure” for investigators who will be looking into his support network as well as the internal organization of the Cosa Nostra. He said the criminal organizations have the ability to find new leadership quickly.

Silent composure
Provenzano has so far maintained his silence in custody, Gilberto Calderozzi, the head of operations for the Italian state police in Rome, told private Channel 5 television.

“He has demonstrated extreme composure,” Calderozzi said.

The head of Italy’s parliamentary anti-Mafia commission, Roberto Centaro, described Provenzano as the last of the old guard bosses, more interested in power than wealth.

“For that reason, it will be difficult to get him to work with officials,” Centaro told private television La7.

The ANSA and Apcom news agencies said police investigators spent the night reviewing notes seized in Provenzano’s hideout. Turncoats have said Provenzano gave orders with written notes — not trusting cell phones for fear of being monitored by police.

The reports said the notes had been sent to Provenzano from Mafia families across the island and pertained to various interests of the Cosa Nostra, in particular public works contracts.

Under Provenzano’s leadership, Cosa Nostra increasingly spread its tentacles into the lucrative world of public works contracts in Sicily, turning the Mafia into more of a white-collar industry of illegal activity — with less dependance on traditional operations such as drug trafficking and extortion, investigators have said.

Some people named in the notes had not been previously known to investigators, ANSA said.

Investigators were also combing the countryside for a one-mile radius around the hideout, ANSA said.

Convicted in absentia
Provenzano had escaped capture so often since going into hiding in 1963 that he earned a place in the Italian imagination as “The Phantom of Corleone.” He got his nickname “The Tractor” for the determination he displayed in a mob career that began with his role as a hit man.

He is believed to have taken over leadership of the Sicilian Mafia following the 1993 arrest of former boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina. During his years as a fugitive, Provenzano was convicted in absentia and given life sentences for more than a dozen murders of mobsters and investigators.

Wednesday’s Giornale di Sicilia headlined its editions “Here is Provenzano: Captured after 43 years, he was in Corleone.” The story was given more prominence than the outcome of Italy’s tight parliamentary elections.

The newspaper quoted the fugitive as telling police when he was arrested: “You don’t know what you’re doing.”