Mafia 'Godmother' arrested

ROME - After 13 years on the run, the woman with 'the eyes of ice' who reputedly directed a crime syndicate for her imprisoned brother gave herself up to police who came knocking at dawn yesterday at a fortified villa outside Naples, police said.

The arrest of Rosetta Cutolo, 57, in the mob stronghold of Ottaviano was the second important strike by authorities at organised crime in less than a month. On 15 January, the man believed to be the Siclian Mafia's 'boss of bosses,' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina was arrested in Palermo. He had been a fugitive for 23 years.

Authorities believe Rosetta Cutolo had been running the syndicate for her brother, Raffaele Cutolo, who is serving a life sentence in a Sardinian prison for crimes in the name of his Nuova Camorra Organizzata, a powerful branch of the Camorra, as Neapolitan crime gangs are known.

'Is Rosetta in?' a Naples police official, Umberto Vecchione, said he asked Cutolo's wife, Immacolata Iacone, as she opened the door for officers. In reply, Rosetta Cutolo appeared at the entrance, saying 'I am tired of being a fugitive,' Mr Vecchione recounted, according to the Italian news agency AGI in Naples.

'Rosetta Cutolo had been followed around the world, protected by gangsters but in the end we succeeded in arresting her' Luigi Rossi, an official of the state police said in Rome.

Lately, she 'had made frequent trips in South America, first in Brazil, then in Venezuela near the border with Colombia,' AGI quoted Mr Rossi as saying. 'The woman, a real crime manager, moved continually, even in Italy, to keep her eye on various activities.'

Cutolo is nicknamed 'ice eyes' for the hardened look from her blue eyes. She never married, apparently to devote her life to her brother. She had been sought since 9 September, 1981, when she was believed to have escaped during a police raid on a house in search of crime bosses.

She was sentenced in absentia in 1990 to nine years in prison on charges of criminal association. Her brother took over the Camorra in the early 1980s after gang battles that left hundreds dead in the Naples area. In the last few years, the Nuova Camorra Organizzata is believed to have lost much of its dominance to a Camorra rival, the Nuova Famiglia.

MILAN - Police yesterday hailed the arrest of a close ally of the Socialist leader, Bettino Craxi, as a key move in the investigation into a bribery scandal that has rocked Italy's political establishment, Reuter reports.

Silvano Larini, an architect, surrendered on Sunday to police at Ventimiglia on the French border after eight months on the run in Paris, police said. Magistrates and police allege Mr Larini played a pivotal role in channelling bribes paid for public works contracts to the Socialist Party, netting it millions of pounds.