Sicilian Mafia boss dies in US jail

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The Independent US

Gaetano Badalamenti, once described as the "boss of all bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, died yesterday in a prison hospital in the United States at the age of 80, an advanced age denied many of his former business associates.

Gaetano Badalamenti, once described as the "boss of all bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, died yesterday in a prison hospital in the United States at the age of 80, an advanced age denied many of his former business associates.

Badalamenti rose swiftly through the Mafia ranks to lead the Cinisi clan until he fell foul of the ambitious Toto Riina. He left Sicily for Brazil and became a ringleader of a $1.65bn heroin and cocaine smuggling operation that used pizzerias as fronts to distribute the drugs in the US.

FBI surveillance finally trapped him and his confederates and, in 1987, they were charged with importing heroin from the Middle East and cocaine from South America and laundering profits through Swiss bank accounts. Prosecutors also claimed ring members were behind scores of murders in Sicily and the US.

The trial of Badalamenti and nearly two dozen conspirators in the case took 17 months, included more than 400 witnesses, 15,000 exhibits and 41,000 pages of transcripts. Prosecutors described Badalamenti as the former "boss of all bosses in Sicily".

He was found guilty and sentenced to 45 years in a US federal prison. He was also sentenced to life in prison in absentia in Italy in 2002 for the 1978 murder of a DJ who was frequently critical of the Mafia boss.

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