Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Saturday, 5 December 2009

Mafia 'second-in-command' arrested in Italy

Suspected Mafia leader Gianni Nicchi was arrested in  Palermo
Gianni Nicchi was found in an apartment in Palermo, Sicily

Two top Mafia figures, including the alleged second-in-command, have been arrested in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has announced.

Gianni Nicchi, 28, was found in an apartment in Palermo, Sicily.

Police said they had also arrested another top leader, Gaetano Fidanzati, 74, on a street in Milan.

A day earlier a witness in a Mafia case had linked Mr Berlusconi to the crime gang - a charge he denied, emphasising that he was fighting the criminals.

Announcing the arrests to journalists, Mr Berlusconi said on Saturday: "This is the best response to all the slander made by irresponsible people who, by doing this, are only slinging mud" at Italy.

An ex-Mafia member had told a Turin court that mob chief Giuseppe Graviano had said Mr Berlusconi and a senator had helped the Mafia.

The top of the Mafia wanted list remains the alleged boss - Matteo Messina Denaro.

Series of arrests

Mr Berlusconi said his government "had done more than any other to fight organised crime in the last 20 years".

Nicchi, son of a convicted Mafia member, was sentenced to 18 years in jail in January 2008 for extortion and Mafia links.

Fidanzati was freed from prison in 2006 but has been wanted on suspicion of Mafia links since December 2008.

Anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said: "If we carry on like this, there will be no names left on the list of 30 most-wanted criminals."

The latest arrests mean police have captured 17 of Italy's top 30 most-wanted suspected criminals in a few months.

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