Alleged mafia boss hangs himself in prison

Gaetano Lo Presti was one of nearly 100 alleged mobsters arrested in predawn raids Photo: AP

An alleged mafia boss who was arrested in a massive sweep by Italian police hanged himself in a prison cell within hours of being detained.

Police have launched an investigation into how Gaetano Lo Presti was able to commit suicide.

He was one of nearly 100 alleged mobsters arrested during predawn raids in Sicily, home of the Cosa Nostra mafia, on Tuesday.

Lo Presti, 52, was arrested because he allegedly headed a mafia clan in the Porta Nuova district of Palermo, Sicily’s capital.

He was found dead in a cell in Palermo’s Pagliarelli prison late on Tuesday night, just hours after being picked up during raids by 1,200 police backed up by helicopters and sniffer dogs.

Lo Presti and the other suspects were accused of crimes including extortion, trafficking of arms and drugs and having mafia links. He already had several convictions for mob-related crimes.

The raids were carried out in order to thwart attempts by mafia godfathers to rebuild Cosa Nostra, which has been weakened in recent years by the arrests of some of its most senior figures.

The criminal organisation’s “boss of bosses”, Bernardo Provenzano, was arrested in 2006. In a further blow, Provenzano’s heir apparent, Salvatore Lo Piccolo, was apprehended a year later.

Authorities said Tuesday’s raids struck an “unprecedented blow” against Cosa Nostra, the best known of Italy’s four mafia groups. The other criminal groups include the feared Camorra, based in Naples, and the secretive ‘Ndraghetta of Calabria.

The operation was code-named Perseus – a reference to the story in Greek mythology in which the hero Perseus slays the gorgon Medusa.

The raids around Palermo were the culmination of a nine-month investigation which involved wiretapping suspects’ homes and offices.

Alleged mafia boss hangs himself in prison – By Nick Squires in Rome – 17 Dec 2008 – This story was found at: