Alfano says his 'hope' lies in encircling Cosa Nostra boss
Interior minister hints at new progress after asset seizures21 October, 20:20
"A series of police initiatives have closed the circle around the supporters of mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro. It is obvious that the state is putting maximum, tireless effort and great hope into this investigation," Alfano said after a meeting of the National Committee for Public Safety and Order in the central Sicilian town of Caltanissetta. "No more can be said (on the matter), but it is certain that it is the hope that I cultivate as interior minister and as a Sicilian," Alfano added.
This month police froze 38 million euros worth of olive-oil companies, shops, homes, land and bank accounts linked to Denaro.
But in late September, police seized more than 700 million euros' worth of assets from Sicilian businessman Giuseppe Grigoli, 64, who is accused of being a crony and dummy proprietor for Denaro.
A court in Trapani, a city in western Sicily, confiscated 220 buildings, including villas and large city residences, 133 parcels of land amounting to 60 hectares, and 12 businesses, which investigators claimed were bought to launder Mob profits.
Grigoli, who is currently in jail, has been called the "supermarket king" for his leading role in Sicilian food distribution in Sicily.
Grigoli is serving a 12-year sentence for Mafia conspiracy handed down by an appeals court.
In the same trial, Denaro, on the lam since 1993, was condemned in absentia to 20 years in prison.
In August, police also seized 3.5 million euros in assets including bank accounts in Sicily and Lombardy belonging to a Sicilian wind-farm mogul, Vito Nicastri, linked to Denaro.
The operation followed up the biggest-ever assets seizure in the history of Italy in April, when over 1.3 billion euros belonging to wind- and solar-power magnate Nicastri was taken.
The National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA) has said Nicastri is directly linked to Denaro, who the DIA said in September was the "indisputable leader" of the Sicilian Mafia, clearing up reports that his status was not unchallenged.
That operation involved 43 companies or stakes in companies, 98 properties, seven vehicles and 66 financial assets, including bank accounts, credit cards and life-insurance policies, belonging to Nicastri, a leading player in the clean-energy sector.
"We have hit the heart of the grey area of Cosa Nostra," investigators said at the time.
As well as Sicily, assets were seized in Lombardy, Lazio and Calabria.
Investigators said the 57-year-old businessman from Alcamo, in western Sicily, "maintained constant relations with members of Cosa Nostra" in the provinces of Catania, Messina and Palermo, as well as having contacts with Calabrian crime syndicate 'Ndrangheta.
This relationship allegedly "facilitated his transformation from an electrician into a businessman specialising in the production of electricity from renewable sources, giving him a prominent position in the south (of Italy)".
The record assets seizure was the latest in the anti-Mafia prosecutors' policy aimed at draining Messina Denaro's resources and exposing him, police said.