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Monday, February 23, 1998 Published at 17:47 GMT


Mafia sperm mystery

The judiciary in Sicily is investigating the birth last year of two children to the wives of two brothers who were jailed for mafia killings. Police suspect that the children may have been born by in-vitro fertilisation from their fathers' sperm smuggled out of the prison. Our Rome correspondent David Willey reports.

It is yet another story, which highlights the apparent ability of some powerful members of the mafia to continue the semblance of a normal life, whether they are inside or out of prison. Prison warders grew suspicious when they saw the young wives of the two brothers come to visit their husbands in prison, each with a baby in their arms.

The two women refused to explain how they had become pregnant. The prisoners, Giuseppe and Filippe Graviano, have been in jail for the past four years for extortion and for various murders, including that of a Sicilian parish priest.

The priest had frequently denounced the mafia from his pulpit. The two men were allowed to marry their fiances while in jail by the prison authorities, but they were not allowed to receive conjugal visits.

They belong to a category of mafia criminals who are subject to a specially strict prison regime, with no remission of sentence possible and few comforts while they serve their sentence. Police believe that they managed to smuggle their sperm out of jail, either by bribing a warder or by giving it to a messenger.

For many years mafia members sentenced to jail have managed to continue criminal activities from behind bars by telephone. But then new legislation was brought in which makes it mandatory to keep those considered to be major mafia criminals under twenty-four hour surveillance in jail, and to deny them access to public telephones.

But cell phones are still frequently smuggled into Italian jails.

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