The Italian police have arrested 46 members of the Sicilian Mafia, including top leaders in the Palermo area, as part of a sweeping international operation spanning Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Local authority arrests were announced on Tuesday, nipping in the bud an attempt to re-establish a ruling mob council for the province.
One of those arrested was Settimio Mineo, 80, whom top mobsters from the area chose this year as the council’s leader, officials said.
Mineo, the mob capo, or chief, of Palermo’s Pagliarelli district, was arrested along with the heads of the Villabate, Belmonte Mezzagno and Porta Nuova districts, as well as the bosses of 10 Mafia families from Palermo and the surrounding region, Italian officials said in a statement.
The four senior Mafia leaders have all served prison time.
The council, known as the Cupola in Mafia-speak, aimed to coordinate illegal activities among the area’s principal crime families and make joint decisions on important issues, finding strength in numbers. The Sicilian Mafia had such a structure for decades, until it collapsed in the 1990s.
Before the arrest about 90 other people were arrested in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
They were believed to be part of a southern Italian criminal group known as the ’Ndrangheta and involved in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, according to Eurojust, the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit.
The arrests on Tuesday were the culmination of a two-year investigation by anti-Mafia prosecutors in Palermo aided by the Carabinieri, Italy’s military police force. The charges included association with the Mafia, illegal gun possession, arson and extortion, Italian officials said.
“This investigation takes us back in time” and to the “reaffirmation of the old rules of Cosa Nostra” under unified leadership, the Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said at a news conference on Tuesday.