Italian police say they have arrested an alleged organized crime leader suspected of forcing businesses to pay protection money or have their buildings burned down.
Authorities said Enrico Scalavinois, known as the king of the "pizzo" - after the term for the extortion fee collected by the crime families, was arrested Tuesday.
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said the arrest showed how Italy is cracking down on the illegal protection racket. He said Sicilian businessmen could rest assured that the government and law enforcement are backing them in their rebellion against the pizzo.
The Sicilian branch of the national employers' federation, Cofindustria, has threatened to expel any members who pay the protection money.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.