Mr Alfieri, who had been a fugitive from justice for 11 years, was flushed out of a secret hiding place under the floor of a house near Naples only five days after Giuseppe Madonia, second in command of the Sicilian Mafia, was caught masquerading as a doctor in a quiet village near Vicenza in northern Italy.
Almost simultaneously, Rome police disguised as gas workmen arrested Francesco Cannizzaro, who is believed to be the right- hand man of another big Sicilian boss, and who has 10 years to serve for drug-running. Earlier this week another Camorra boss was arrested in Rome and six Sicilian mafiosi, including the 84-year-old uncle of the Sicilian Mafia's 'boss of bosses', Salvatore Riina, were rounded up in Tuscany.
The arrests are the rewards of a serious drive by carabinieri and police to get the most dangerous gang leaders behind bars in the wake of public outrage over the recent assassinations of the leading anti-Mafia judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borselino.
But they have been made easier by the growing number of pentiti, repentant members of the Mafia who co-operate with investigators and betray their colleagues. These betrayals are believed to be destabilising the Mafia clans and are thought likely to set off bloody feuds for domination or revenge. This belief was reinforced by the murder on Thursday of Salvatore and Giuseppe Marchese. They were cousins to a pentito, but police experts believe the killings were prompted by a power struggle, not a vendetta. 'This definitely means there is no longer a balance of power among the clans. They are in crisis,' said one.
The carabinieri had been hunting Mr Alfieri for months; they searched at least 60 flats and houses before tracking him down in a modest bungalow. They approached at first light and burst in, to find three rumpled beds, one bodyguard and signs that two people had fled hurriedly. A search revealed a suspect tile under a bedside table. As they were about to break up the floor, the hidden cubby hole opened from within and a voice said: 'I am Carmine Alfieri. You have kept me on the run a long time. Congratulations, you are gentlemen.'
Mr Alfieri, who is suspected of ordering the massacre of a rival clan in which eight people were shot dead, furnished his simple hideout with five 18th-century paintings, a bronze statue, three icons, Bach and Vivaldi records, a copy of Dante's Inferno and a book of reflections by Goethe.Reuse content