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Sicilian Mafia Boss and Convicted Heroin Trafficker Captured


February 1993

The alleged head of the Sicilian Mafia was captured in Palermo in January after 23 years of eluding police (Clare Pedrick, "Italian Police Capture Top Leader of Sicily's Mafia," Washington Post, 1/16/93, A15).

Italian officials hailed the capture of Salvatore Riina, Italy's most wanted fugitive, as a sign that once unreachable mafiosi are vulnerable. Italian law enforcement was given expanded powers, including wiretapping authority and ability to offer deals to informants, after the slaying last summer of two top anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Riina had become an almost legendary figure in Italy, and was thought by many to have been responsible for scores of murders, including the Falcone and Borsellino killings. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after being convicted in absentia of heroin trafficking and murder.