October 21, 2005

Italy’s 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.

"It was not only a crime organization that provided cover
for him," he said, according to advance excerpts.

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, once nicknamed "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 on the issue. "If this is confirmed,
we would be faced with a very serious situation," he 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.

Investigators say a mob group known as the 'ndrangheta,
based in the southern region of Calabria, has since overtaken
the Sicilian Mafia to become Italy's most dangerous crime

The 'ndrangheta was blamed for the killing last Sunday of
the vice president of Calabria's regional government, and
interior minister Pisanu announced on Friday that he was
sending more specialized forces to the region to tackle the

"We see the 'ndrangheta as a major crime multinational
which has its historical base in Calabria. I am certain that in
the end the patient force of the state will prevail," Pisanu

Earlier on Friday police said around 50 people across
Europe had been arrested as part of an investigation into the
'ndrangheta's international drugs network.

Pisanu said the various state agencies would in future work
closer with magistrates in Calabria to tackle the mobsters.

"This is not a temporary response (to the killing). It is a
commitment which is set to last for a long time, or until the
state has unraveled the crime organization," he told reporters.