Sicilian mob boss dies, 83
The legendary Sicilian town of Corleone. Source: Wikimedia
Sicilian mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, known as “the Tractor” for the way he mowed his victims down, has died after a prolonged illness.
The 83-year-old was known as the network’s “boss of bosses” until his arrest in 2006 after 40 years evading the authorities, during which time he reportedly gave orders to his lieutenants verbally or with typewritten notes.
Provenzano was serving a life term for several killings, including the 1992 murders of top anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
He died at the San Paolo hospital in Milan, where he was receiving treatment for cancer.
He was born in the village of Corleone, eternally associated with the Sicilian mafia because of the Godfather novels and movies. It was alleged that his first murder, that of a rival boss, happened when he was 25. In 1963 Provenzano went on the run after an arrest warrant was issued against him for the murder of one of a rival clan’s men.
He became mafia leader Salvatore “Totò” Riina’s deputy, who presided over a series of battles and killings of top judges that were the hallmark of Italian crime in the 1980s.
Provenzano took the top job when Riina was captured in 1993, something an informer claimed Provenzano was involved in. Once at the helm following Riina’s arrest, Provenzano allegedly tried to arbitrate between rival gangs competing for business. He was said to have steered away from attacks on high-profile officials that had hardened public opinion against the mafia and provoked the authorities to act.
Another nickname “the accountant” was acquired because of his mastery of his empire’s finances.
He was Italy’s most-wanted man for many years and was finally arrested in a squalid farmhouse where he was living with his wife and children in the Corleone region near Palermo.
“The Tractor” was sentenced to several consecutive life sentences before being transferred in 2014 to a Milanese hospital with neurological problems. The supreme court rejected an appeal to secure his release on health grounds.
Provenzano allegedly attempted suicide in his cell in 2012 but the prison guards saved his life.
Mob bosses in Italy are jailed in particularly severe conditions under a law called “41-bis”, which restricts contact with other inmates and non-prisoners to hamper efforts to run their crime empires from prison. These prisoners can only speak to visitors via intercom from behind a thick glass wall or swap their one-hour monthly visit for a single 10-minute telephone conversation.