Police ask top mafioso about political links

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The Independent Online
SALVATORE 'Toto' Riina, the Mafia 'boss of bosses' captured on Friday, was interrogated for three hours yesterday by three Sicilian magistrates in Rome's high-security jail, Rebibbia.

Afterwards judicial sources said he answered questions and defended himself, but the question all Italians are asking remained unanswered: will he tell who, presumably in the highest echelons of power, protected him from capture for nearly 24 years?

As carabinieri and police searched the country for Mr Riina's associates, said to be more than 200, the press and opposition politicians are demanding finally to know the truth. Mr Riina himself could provide this very quickly, if he wanted.

'It is impossible to live for 20 years in the same city without being caught,' Tommaso Buscetta, top Mafia boss-turned supergrass, once said - and Buscetta, who has tried it himself, should know.

Wanted Mafia bosses have to live near their clans to keep in control and avoid being supplanted. Toto Riina appears to have lived in or near Palermo all this time with his wife Antonietta, a former gym teacher, and their four children, now aged 13 to 18, moving freely, meeting whom he wanted.

The couple, said to be devoted to each other, married in hiding; their children, two boys and two girls, were all born in a fashionable Palermo clinic where Mrs Riina made no attempt to disguise her identity. All four were legally registered - yet at no time did anyone lift a finger to find their father.

Supergrasses say Mr Riina also travelled, to northern Italy and even to Germany. One claimed he moved around accompanied by escort cars and bodyguards armed to the teeth, although when he was captured he was alone with a driver and unarmed.

A carabinieri source caused a sensation at the weekend by letting slip to journalists that shortly before his arrest, their sleuths reported Mr Riina had talked to a political figure of national importance: 'Someone you would not even imagine.' It was not clear whether it was a direct meeting or through an intermediary. The carabinieri have since issued a denial but the curiosity has not subsided.

The night after the arrest Mrs Riina and the four children appeared in Corleone, the stronghold of Mr Riina's clan. 'My husband is not the monster you have made him out to be,' she told the local carabinieri. And, bitterly, 'they sold him'.

During yesterday's interrogation Mr Riina was charged with ordering the murder of Salvatore Lima, the powerful Sicilian Christian Democrat politician who, supergrasses have revealed, was the Mafia's link with top politicians in Rome. He was allegedly murdered because he could no longer provide the favours and protection it demanded.

Mr Riina, at present held in solitary confinement, will appear in public for the first time on Monday in a trial for the murder of a Mafia boss, Vincenzo Puccio, that he allegedly ordered. Thereafter he will have a busy legal calendar, appearing in the dock in several Mafia trials, including one for the murders of Piersanti Mattarella, the President of the Sicilian Region, and two top Christian Democrat politicians.