Italy takes fight to new generation in Mafia sting

Rome (AFP) –


Anti-mafia police said Tuesday they had dealt a fresh blow to Italy's Cosa Nostra, arresting seven suspected rising-star mobsters after two of the organised crime group turned state witnesses.

The raids followed a major swoop against the resurgent Sicilian mafia in December when a jeweller was captured just before he was due to be officially anointed "boss of bosses" of the reconvened Mafia Commission or Cupola.

Among the dozens rounded up last month were two who quickly turned supergrass.

They spilled the beans to police about clan leaders who were allegedly part of the Cupola.

"Like never before, within a month (of the December arrests) we had two new state witnesses. And not any old members, but two from the upper echelons," Palermo's chief prosecutor chief Francesco Lo Voi told journalists.

"Both confirm that (the new Commission) was not a 'half Cupola' or 'small Cupola', it was not a case of some old has-been getting back into the game, but the rebirth of the Commission with experienced individuals," he said.

- 'Pope and Baron' -

Police cuffed Leandro Greco, grandson of famed mobster Michele Greco -- dubbed "The Pope" -- and Calogero Lo Piccolo, the son of a powerful boss nicknamed "The Baron".

"They come from a family with a strong Mafia lineage. These are men of high standing, young men, which confirms our theory of a renewal which is rooted in historical and familial tradition," Lo Voi said.

But the decision by the two grasses to break their vow of silence, and so quickly, shows "there is no future, something that those who still belong to Cosa Nostra should understand".

The latest arrests included Giovanni Sirchia, who was accused of ferrying both mobsters and secret messages back and forth, as well as four others accused of mafia extortion.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini thanked the police for "further weakening the new Cupola".

The informants described the attempts to breathe fresh life into an organisation nicknamed "the octopus" for its tentacled reach into all areas of society.

"Blood ties, tradition and family continue to be the principles that inspires Cosa Nostra," said police commander Antonio Di Stasio.

- 'Old man's mind' -

The Cupola had not met for years. Mafia hunters heard how at a summit in May the organisation had agreed on a return to the old rules and appointed spokespersons for the various clans to improve communication.

Leandro Greco, 29, had his fellow mobsters call him "Michele" after his grandfather, according to the Giornale di Sicilia.

He was determined to live up to the name after his father, Giuseppe, broke with tradition and rejected the family business to become a film director instead, it said.

Greco, who became clan head at just 23 years old, was described by one of the informants as having "an old man's mind in a young person's body," police said.

The crime group's attempts to appoint a new leader after the death in 2017 of former "boss of bosses" Toto Riina -- nicknamed "The Beast" because of his cruelty -- appear to have failed.

Riina's presumed heir, Matteo Messina Denaro, is on the run, and other potential successors are serving time under Italy's harsh mafia regime.