Italian police arrest alleged Cosa Nostra godfather Settimo Mineo, the 'new head of the Sicilian Mafia'

The man said to be the new head of the Sicilian Mafia has been arrested by Italian police along with 45 associates.

Settimo Mineo, an 80-year-old jeweller, was seized by police following a dawn raid.

Police say he was made Cosa Nostra godfather at a mafia meeting on May 29 in Palermo.

They believe he took over the reins of the Mafia empire following the death of "boss of bosses" Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who died in jail last year.

The 46 suspects are accused of arson, extortion, firearms offences and other crimes.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called the raid an "extraordinary operation".

Based on wiretaps, police determined that during a May 29 meeting of clan leaders in Palermo, Mineo had been elected head of the "cupola", the mob leadership.

It was the first time clan leaders had gathered in such a forum for years, and followed the November 2017 death of Riina, prosecutors said.

Italy's chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, Cafiero De Raho, said the election of Mineo was significant because it showed that the centre of power of the Sicilian Mafia had shifted to Palermo from Corleone, its longtime base that was made famous by novelist Mario Puzo, who used the town's name for the main character in his 1969 novel The Godfather.

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Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi recalled that Mineo had already served a lengthy prison sentence for Mafia association and other crimes after he was swept up in the maxi-trials against the Sicilian Mafia in the 1980s and 90s.

As the eldest of the local clan leaders, he enjoyed particular respect, he said.

"This is a sign that Cosa Nostra doesn't abandon its rules," Mr Lo Voi told a press conference.

"And that despite the convictions, despite the trials, important people can take over the most important roles once they're back in play."

After Riina's 1993 arrest, the Sicilian Mafia saw a degree of marginalisation compared with the Calabrian-based organised crime syndicate or the Neapolitan Camorra. But Italian officials said it continued increasing its financial and business activities.

Mr Salvini said in a tweet that the operation had "dismantled the new 'cupola' of Cosa Nostra".

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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