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Sunday, March 21, 1999 Published at 21:10 GMT

World: Europe

Rally in Mafia stronghold

Toto Riini: the Corleone connection

The Italian President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, has taken part in a rally against organised crime being held in Corleone - a small Sicilian town notorious for its Mafia connections.

The day began with a ceremony in Corleone's main square at which the names of around 400 victims of the Sicilian Mafia were read out.

The square has been renamed after two Sicilian judges murdered by the Mafia in 1992.

Later, top politicians from Rome were to join the president in a visit to a villa once owned by the jailed Mafia "boss of bosses", Toto Riina.

At the villa - now a local school - they will discuss improving the 3-year-old legislation to use confiscated property of Mafia leaders for socially-useful purposes.

Corleone, which lies 30 miles south of Palermo, is the birth place Toto Riina, and used to be regarded as Italy's Mafia capital.

Mr Riina is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences for his Mafia crimes and those of his successor, Bernardo Provenzano, who remains a fugitive.

The BBC's Rome Correspondent, David Willey, says that although many of the former gangsters of Corleone are behind bars in Italy, the Sicilian Mafia has extended its organisation.

From its traditional roots, it has spread to North and South America and Eastern-European mafias have been linked with the Sicilian crime barons.

Italian police recently announced the arrest of an alleged Russian crime gang leader, known as the Cannibal, in Rimini, on Italy's Adriatic coast.

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