Mineo arrest hit resurgent Mafia hard, says top policeman

Settimino Mineo (C), jeweller and new head of the Sicilian mafia, is escorted by carabinieri as he exits a police station after his arrest, in Palermo on December 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Mineo arrest hit resurgent Mafia hard, says top policeman

  • Mineo was the head of one of the 15 Mafia family groupings in Palermo province, with each grouping having two to four families

ROME: The arrest of “Godfather” Settimino Mineo has dealt Cosa Nostra a crucial blow as it tries to reorganize after the violent leadership of the Corleone family, Italy’s top anti-Mafia policeman told AFP.
Police arrested jeweller Mineo, 80, and at least 45 others in Sicily last Tuesday just before he was due to be officially anointed the new “boss of bosses,” they said.
“The arrest of Settimo Mineo was an important operation because it’s a kind of preventative operation at a time when Cosa Nostra is trying to reorganize,” Giuseppe Governale, the head of Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA), told AFP.
“Cosa Nostra is having a hard time, they don’t even completely control drug trafficking on the island but have to make alliances with the ‘Ndrangheta (the mafia of nearby Calabria) for resupply.”
Mineo was the head of one of the 15 Mafia family groupings in Palermo province, with each grouping having two to four families.
“Four other group heads were arrested with him as well as several family heads, so this is important at a time when Cosa Nostra is trying to find an heir to Toto Riina,” Governale said.
Sicily’s Mafia has historically been headed by a family from Palermo, Governale said, but that was turned upside down when the Corleone family took over in the 1960s, with unusual violence.
“When the Corleones took over there were a lot of conflicts. Some Mafiosi fled but now they’re slowly returning, given that the Corleones are no longer in charge,” he said.
The last overall Mafia boss was the notorious Riina, who died in prison last year, and a reconvened Mafia Commission, or “Cupola,” was to anoint Mineo as his heir after meeting in May for the first time since 1993 — when Riina was arrested.
Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were proteges of Luciano Liggio, who headed the Corleonesi Mafia faction in the 1960s.
Together the three men from Corleone, around 1.5 hours drive south of Palermo, took the Mafia in the Sicilian capital by surprise using daring and, above all, violence.
“This short-circuited Cosa Nostra’s general logic,” Governale said.
“The Mafia used measured violence with precision, like a surgeon uses a scalpel, sometimes a little excessively, but the Corleones’ virulence was incredible, even for the other bosses,” he said.
While many in Italy and abroad considered fugitive Mafioso Matteo Messina Denaro the real boss of Cosa Nostra, Governale says the organized crime goup is “light-years away from seeing Matteo Messina Denaro as its boss.”
Hunted by police since 1993, Denaro, 56, was also considered to be a successor to Riina and Provenzano, who also died recently in prison.
Denaro played an important role in the 1980s and 1990s in Trapani in western Sicily, but police operations to try to find him have had the collateral effect of weakening any criminal structure that would consider him a boss.
In 2015, police discovered that Denaro had abandoned modern methods of communication and was giving orders to his men via traditional “pizzini“: small bits of paper containing encoded messages.
“Now, because of his operational absence on the ground, he would have to affirm his leadership,” Governale said.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 8 min 13 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.