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Boss Riina 'betrayed' by Provenzano

No.2 sought to draw heat away from Cosa Nostra with tip-off

05 November, 18:09

(ANSA) - Palermo, November 5 - One-time Cosa Nostra 'superboss' Salvatore Riina was arrested in 1993 thanks to a tip off to police from his long-time right hand and fellow townsman Bernardo Provenzano, who then took over as the head of the Sicilian Mafia, according to the son of former Palermo mayor Vito Ciancimino.

The claim by Massimo Ciancimino, who has become a state's witness, would appear to confirm statements made more than ten years ago by jailed mobster Giovanni Brusca, the Cosa Nostra henchman who detonated the 1992 bomb which killed anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.

According to Massimo Ciancimino, police investigating the murder of Falcone and fellow judge Paolo Borsellino, a few weeks later, gave his father a map of Palermo and asked him for a lead to where the fugitive Riina might be hiding.

Vito Ciancimino, he continued, had a copy of the map sent to Provenzano and it was returned to him with a circle drawn around the Palermo neighborhood where Riina was then arrested on January 15, 1993.

Both Brusca and Massimo Riina claim that Provenzano betrayed Riina because he was opposed to the latter's frontal offensive against the state, which aside from the killings of the two judges included high-profile bombings in Rome, Milan and Florence.

Riina and Provenzano, now respectively 79 and 76, came from the Sicilian village of Corleone and began their criminal careers as hit men for the local boss Luciano Liggio and helped him to first take over the Corleone family in 1958 and then to wage war against other families for control of Sicily in what was to become known as 'the First Mafia War'.

After Liggio's arrest in 1974, Riina took over the family with Provenzano as his right hand. Together they waged the 'second Mafia War' from 1981 to 1983 which consolidated the control of the 'Corleonesi' over Cosa Nostra.

Backed with cash from the lucrative heroin trade, the Corleonesi moved to take political control of the island through high-profile murders and intimidation.

When the state began to fight back Riina escalated the violence which culminated in the Falcone and Borsellino assassinations and the bombings outside Sicily.

After Riina's arrest, Provenzano took Cosa Nostra back underground and used his contacts to infiltrate local government and even police so that the Mafia could prey on public works contracts and run its rackets with relative impunity.

This resulted in a 'pax mafiosa' in Sicily which restored an older hierarchy and led to a dramatic decline in the murder rate.

Provenzano was finally arrested on April 11, 2006.

photo: Provenzano after his arrest

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