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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 16:25 GMT
Italian police swoop on Mafia suspects
1992 bombing in Palermo
Police believe they are closing in on the Mafia leadership
Anti-Mafia police in Italy have arrested more than 30 people, including two government officials and a top lawyer, on charges of corruption and illegal profiteering.

This was a carefully constructed criminal organisation carrying out illegal business on various fronts

Italian anti-Mafia force
The arrests, which were carried out after raids across the country, followed a two-year investigation into the activities of the Sicilian Mafia.

The 32 who have been detained are suspected members of a gang linked to Mafia leader Bernardo Provenzano, and police believe they are now one step closer to catching the heavyweight.

"This was a carefully constructed criminal organisation carrying out illegal business in various fronts," said a statement from the country's anti-mafia force, the DIA.

Underground boss

The ring is suspected of bribing officials to win lucrative public contracts, supplying illegal immigrant labour and manipulating markets, including the meat industry.

Those arrested including a prominent Rome lawyer, a surveyor at the Ministry of Public Works and the director of a prison near Rome.

Salvatore Riina
The arrest of Salvatore Riina sparked Provenzano's rise

Another detainee, a high profile construction millionaire, had been taken into custody in the early 1990s for suspected involvement in the Tangentopoli affair, Italy's largest corruption scandal.

Police say the ring was headed by Piddu Madonia, described as one of Mr Provenzano's deputies.

Mr Provenzano has been a fugitive for nearly 40 years, and has received multiple life sentences from Italian courts in his absence.

He is thought to have taken over the leadership of the Sicilian Mafia in 1993 after the arrest of Salvatore Riina.

Police have just one photograph of him, taken in 1959. It features a clean-cut man in his 20s who would bear little to resemblance to a man who is now 70.

See also:

07 Aug 01 | Europe
Italian police seize Mafia boss
30 Jan 01 | Europe
Sicilian mafia boss arrested
14 Mar 01 | Europe
Banker held as Mafia net closes
06 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Mafia - past and present
24 Dec 00 | Europe
'Mob queen' found in cupboard
12 Dec 00 | Europe
UN tackles organised crime
12 Dec 00 | Europe
Mafia comeback mars UN conference
14 Nov 00 | Europe
Mafia 'gripping Italian economy'
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