October 21, 2005

Italy anti-Mafia chief accuses politicians

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's new national anti-Mafia prosecutor
caused a storm on Friday by saying Bernardo Provenzano, the top
Mafia chief who has been a fugitive for four decades, had been
protected by politicians and policemen.

"People from various professions -- politicians,
businessmen and police -- have helped Provenzano remain a
fugitive," Pietro Grasso told state television Rai in an
interview to be broadcast late on Friday night.

"From our investigations, we discovered all these
professional categories... It was not only a crime organization
that provided cover for him," he said, according to advance

Until his appointment earlier this month, Grasso was for
years the chief anti-Mafia investigator in the Sicilian
capital, Palermo, and often expressed frustration over the
failure to capture Provenzano.

Provenzano, 71-years-old and known in his younger years as
"Binu the tractor" because of the way he would mow down his
opponents, has managed to run the crime group like a phantom.

"We discovered that a businessman received information from
a police officer about our investigations. The businessman was
linked to the Mafia and so Provenzano had first-hand
information about our investigations," Grasso said.

Center-left parliamentarian Giuseppe Gambale said Interior
Minister Giuseppe Pisanu and Justice Minister Roberto Castelli
should address parliament.

"If this is confirmed, we would be faced with a very
serious situation," Gambale said.

Enzo Bianco, head of the lower house of parliament's
oversight committee for secret services, said the committee
should summon Grasso and get him to elaborate on his comments.

Provenzano, a native of Corleone -- a town made famous in
"The Godfather" films -- assumed control of the Mafia after the
state scored major arrests against the mob in the early 1990s,
including that of top boss Salvatore "Toto" Riina in 1993.

Last January police arrested nearly 50 people accused of
helping Provenzano remain at large.

The last picture police have of Provenzano was taken in
1959 and in it he looks like a handsome university athlete.

Investigators have been using computer photofits of how he
may have aged. Earlier this year police said they believed
Provenzano had traveled to France under a false identity

A year before he was arrested, Riina, known as "the beast,"
declared war against the state and ordered the murders of
judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, both killed in

Magistrates say Provenzano has changed the Mafia's strategy
by limiting attacks against the state and managing internal
dissent through consensus, persuasion and paternal largesse.