Italian police on Friday arrested 30 people linked to the country’s most wanted fugitive, the presumed head of the Sicilian mafia Matteo Messina Denaro.
Authorities arrested Messina Denaro’s sister, 43-year-old Patrizia, as well as his nephew, Francesco Guttadauro, cousins Giovanni Filardo, Lorenzo Cimarosa and Mario Messina Denaro, and several white collar suspects.
They were charged with mafia membership and extortion, among other charges. Police also seized assets attributed to Messina Denaro worth 5 million euros (6.9 million dollars).
Investigations revealed that the Messina Denaro clan, based in the western Sicilian province of Trapani, monopolized the construction and public works industry, securing tenders to build wind turbines, industrial parks, public roads and restaurants, police said.
The suspects were also said to have extorted protection money from rival businesses and private citizens who were known to have inherited large sums.
Matteo Messina Denaro, 51, has been on the run since 1993 and has a reputation as a playboy.
Listed on the Italian Interior Ministry’s most wanted list along with seven other high-profile criminals, he is believed to have killed at least 70 people, and is also wanted for theft, pillaging, illegal possession of explosives and other crimes.
Messina Denaro is believed to have inherited the leadership of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian branch of the mafia, after the arrest of the previous Godfather, Bernardo Provenzano, in 2006.