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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 16:40 GMT
Banker held as Mafia net closes
Arrest of key Mafia suspect Vincenzo Virga (R) in February
Other key suspects have already been detained
A former banker alleged to have close links with the country's most wanted Mafia suspect has been arrested in Sicily.

Police believe the arrest of Giuseppe Palazzolo brings them closer to their ultimate target - the "boss of bosses" Bernardo Provenzano, who is believed to head the Sicilian Mafia.

It is their third breakthrough since early February in the hunt for Mr Provenzano.

Men alleged to be his financial brain and right-hand man were both arrested, and letters from Mr Provenzano's wife were found, giving clues about his hideout.


We're putting more pressure on (Provenzano) and will ultimately get to him too

Anti-Mafia prosecutor Pierluigi Vigna
Mr Palazzolo is accused of being a Mafia middleman whose alleged role included buying property on behalf of Mr Provenzano.

Investigators say they also have evidence that Mr Palazzolo passed messages between known mafia members and Mr Provenzano.

The head of Sicily's military police, General Carlo Gualdi said Mr Palazzolo's arrest, in the Sicilian town of San Cataldo, was an important step in finding Mr Provenzano.

Blunder

And Italy's chief anti-mafia prosecutor, Pierluigi Vigna, also hailed the arrest, and said it brought police closer to Mr Provenzano.

"We're putting more pressure on him and will ultimately get to him, too," he said.

The alleged Mafia boss, who has been on the run for 30 years, has so far slipped through police fingers.

One alleged Mafia member was arrested when he could have been on the verge of delivering letters to Mr Provenzano, sparking allegations of a police blunder.

Officers are not even sure what their target looks like - their most recent picture of him dates from the early 1960s.

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See also:

16 Feb 01 | Europe
Police close in on Mafia boss
06 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Mafia - past and present
24 Dec 00 | Europe
'Mob queen' found in cupboard
12 Dec 00 | Europe
Mafia comeback mars UN conference
30 Jan 01 | Europe
Sicilian mafia boss arrested
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