Tuesday, September 14, 2010


(ANSA) - Trapani, September 14 - Italian anti-Mafia police on Tuesday seized assets worth some 1.5 billion euros ($1.92 billion) from a Sicilian businessman believed to have ties witht Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Matteo Messina Denaro.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni hailed what he called "the biggest ever" seizure of Mafia assets.

"Today the largest-ever Mafia seizure operation was made from an entrepreneur in the Trapani area believed close to Messina Denaro," Maroni told a morning TV talk show.

Vito Nicastri, 54, an alternative-energy entrepreneur with several wind farms in Sicily, is said to be one of the last remaining fundraisers for Messina Denaro, around whom police are waging a "scorched-earth" policy.

Investigators said that, as well as having links with Messina Denaro's Cosa Nostra, businessman Vito Nicastri also worked with 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest mafia, across the Messina Straits in Calabria.

More than 40 companies were sequestered, some of them with stakes abroad, predominantly in the windfarm and solar-panel sector, as well as hundreds of acres of land around Trapani, Palermo and Reggio Calabria; plus about one hundred pieces of real estate, luxury villas and warehouses; deluxe cars and a 14-meter catamaran; and 60 bank accounts, insurance policies and bonds.

Messina Danaro, 48, became supreme boss when Bernardo Provenzano, 77, was arrested in 2006 after 43 years on the run.

Several top bosses were caught in the wake of his arrest, leaving Messina Danaro increasingly isolated, police say.

Anti-Mafia prosecutors believe they are closing in on the young boss of bosses.

In July police said they had been able to reconstruct his DNA in a further step towards arresting him.

The genetic profile of the so-called 'Godfather of Trapani' was identified through tests on biological evidence, including hair, obtained from Messina Denaro's brothers without their knowing.

Identifying the DNA of the Cosa Nostra No.1 is considered a major breakthrough because he has never been arrested.

Copies of his fingerprints taken when he was drafted for military service have long since been destroyed.

Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993, built up his power base in his native Trapani, in western Sicily, before beating Palermo chieftains to become Mob kingpin after Provenzano was caught in April 2006.

His position at the top of Cosa Nostra was assured with the November 2007 arrest of Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, a veteran mafia chieftain who had appeared to be vying with the younger mobster for control of the crime syndicate and had the apparent support of the 'old guard'.

Messina Denaro is currently believed to be expanding his criminal empire abroad and police have found evidence of trips to Austria, Greece, Spain and Tunisia.

Nicknamed 'Diabolik' after a cult Italian comic strip criminal, Messina Denaro sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months pregnant girlfriend.

He is reportedly idolised by Cosa Nostra younger troops because of his ruthlessness and playboy-like charisma.

For almost two years year police have been following a new strategy to try and flush Messina Denaro out, arresting scores of his underlings and seizing million of euros in assets.

"The circle is closing around the No.1 fugitive," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said earlier this year.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Messineo added at the time that their aim of their strategy against Messina Denaro was to "dry up the water he swims in". photo: new identikit of Messina Danaro

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