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Italian Police Nab Over 90 Mafia Suspects

Italian police have arrested over 90 Sicilian "Cosa Nostra" mafia suspects in early morning raids carried out in Sicily and in Tuscany, officials said.

Man in handcuffs

Extortion, arms dealing and drug-rafficking were among their alleged crimes

Those arrested Tuesday, Dec. 16, were allegedly plotting to re-organize Cosa Nostra's command structure under the orders of one of Italy's most wanted mafia bosses, Matteo Messina Denaro, who remains on the run, a police statement said.

Some 1,200 carabinieri paramilitary police, backed by helicopter units and anti-drug dog squads, took part in Tuesday's operation, which was mainly conducted in the area near Palermo, Sicily, the statement said.

Those arrested face charges including extortion, arms dealing, drug-trafficking and "membership of a mafia organization," it said.

Messina Denaro is assumed to have taken over Cosa Nostra's leadership following the arrest of the previous "Godfather," Bernardo Provenzano, in April 2006.

Investigators suspect that Messina Denaro intended, together with several of those arrested, to reconstitute Cosa Nostra's governing "Cupola" a sort of commission in which representatives of the main crime families take decisions collectively.

The Cupola system fell into disuse following the arrest of former mafia kingpin Toto Riina in 1993 and Italian authorities' subsequent crackdown on the Sicilian mafia's structures.

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