1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Mafia arrests

December 6, 2009

Italian authorities achieve a coup with the arrests of two out of three of the Sicilian Mafia's most powerful men. It comes as the country's prime minister faces allegations of connections with the mob.

A pair of hands, belonging to a man wearing a suit and gold watch, handcuffed
The arrests coincided with mass protests against Italian premier Silvio BerlusconiImage: Bilderbox

Italian police have arrested two of the mafia's most senior bosses a day after claims that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had links with the crime group.

The man believed to be the crime group's second-in-command, 28-year-old Gianni Nicchi, was found hiding in an apartment, the Italian prime minister told journalists.

At roughly the same time on Saturday, Milan police arrested third ranked Gaetano Fidanzati while he was walking along a street in the city.

Announcing the arrests, Berlusconi appeared to make references to the allegations that had he had helped the Mafia and that the organization held the country in its grip.

"This is the best response to all the slander made by irresponsible people who, by doing this, are only slinging mud" at Italy, Berlusconi said.

Testimony allegations

The accusations came on Friday in the testimony of an ex-Mafia member who said that mob chief Giuseppe Graviano had claimed that Berlusconi, in the years before he entered politics, along with his current political ally Senator Marcello Dell'Utri had aided the mafia.

Sylvio Berlusconi wearing a suit and tie, outdoors
Berlusconi said the arrests were the best answer to mafia-link allegationsImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Gaspare Spatuzza told a Turin court that Graviano had said he "got everything thanks to the reliability of these people," before giving the names of Berlusconi and Dell'Utri.

He added that Graviano said the Sicilian Mafia had "the country in their hands".

Arrested near to court

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told Italian television that the hideout where Nicchi was arrested was close to Palermo's main court.

Maroni said it was thought that Nicchi had taken over the number two position last month, after the arrest of Domenico Raccuglia, who had been running from police for the last 15 years.

Nicchi, who is relatively young to be a boss by mafia standards, has been a fugitive since 2006, and was last year sentenced to 18 years in prison for extortion.

The mafia is now believed to be headed by 51-year-old Matteo Messina Denaro, known as the “Playboy Boss” due to his taste for fast cars, women and gold watches.

The arrests came as up to 90,000 Italians protested in Rome, calling for Berlusconi to resign amid multiple corruption allegations.

The prime minister has faced charges of bribery, tax fraud and false accounting and has been accused of trying to reform the judicial system to his own ends. Berlusconi denies all allegations made against him.


Editor: Nigel Tandy