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Police arrest 18 in crackdown on Sicilian Mafia family

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Police arrest 18 in crackdown on Sicilian Mafia family
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REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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Italian and US police arrested 18 people in Sicily in a crackdown on a Sicilian Mafia family.

They have been targeting Palermo's Inzerillo family, which has been in exile in the United States since the 1980s.

Sicily's organised crime group Cosa Nostra (Our Thing) has been in a state of freefall since 2017 when leader Salvatore “Toto” Riina died in prison. Authorities claim that the Inzerillo family and their New York-based allies, the Gambino clan, are attempting to regain control during a power vacuum in Sicily.

The family has been living in the United States since the 1980s when a vicious war waged by Riina on the Mediterranean island forced them into exile.

The investigation “has registered the strong bond established between Cosa Nostra Palermo and US organised crime,” particularly the Gambino clan, a police statement said.

The Italian-American Gambinos are one of the so-called "five families" which historically reigned New York's Mafia scene. Previous charges against members of the family have included murder, drug distribution and loan sharking.

The family was shaken earlier this year when alleged leader Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali was shot and killed in front of his home in Staten Island in March.

Among those arrested yesterday were village mayor Salvatore Gambino, as well as Tommaso and Francesco Inzerillo, who were immediate relatives of Salvatore Inzerillo — a powerful Mafia boss killed by Rinna in 1981.

Once ruling with absolute power in Sicily, the Cosa Nostra has lost momentum in the past twenty years. Arrests of leaders, reduced complacency from officials, and an increase in the number of locals willing to defy the group has seen organised crime lose its once-iron grip on the Mediterranean island.

Prosecutors have warned repeatedly that the group is attempting to rebuild and regain power.

With bribes and corruption dominating authorities' lack of action against the Mafia in the 20th century, a serious campaign to take down organised crime in Sicily began only in 1992 after the murder of two of Italy’s top magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

This Friday marks the 27th anniversary of Borsellino's death.