At least 45 people were arrested Monday in Sicily in a major crackdown against the Mafia. Italian authorities say they dismantled the top tiers of Mafia syndicates in the area of the Sicilian capital Palermo.
The major anti-mafia operation called Gotha followed police wiretaps during the past two years and the deciphering of notes found after the arrest this year of Mafia boss-of-bosses Bernardo Provenzano. The boss had been on the run for more than 40 years.
Police in Sicily issued 52 arrest warrants on charges of mafia association and extortion, 45 suspects were arrested and seven are still being sought. Some of those arrested had already been in prison and more than a dozen are under investigation for being the current bosses of Mafia families from the Palermo area.
Investigators said the arrests were aimed at thwarting an all-out Mafia war of succession after the arrest of Provenzano.
An Italian magistrate said investigators were able verify that there are still Mafia families headed by bosses and a provincial commission. He added that the Mafia is still made up of a pyramid-like structure with one boss at the top.
Investigators said their wiretaps included listening in to the summits of a commission made up of three mafia bosses. They said the summits were held at a secret location where the bosses discussed problems they had and their criminal strategy.
Police said their wiretaps confirmed that Provenzano remained the supreme head of the Mafia until his arrest on April 11. The taped evidence is also believed to confirm Mafia links with businessmen and politicians, including candidates chosen by the Mafia who have infiltrated political parties.