Mafia Fugitive, A Reputed Expert Hitman, Is Arrested
PALERMO, Sicily (AP) _ Police raiding a country house before dawn Saturday captured a Mafia fugitive reputed to be one of the mob’s top hitmen.
Police officials told reporters in Palermo that Francesco Tagliavia, 39, was unarmed and sleeping when 60 officers raided the house in Torretta, a hamlet 10 miles from the Sicilian capital.
Tagliavia is reputedly one of a half-dozen expert Mafia gunmen called on by Cosa Nostra bosses to rub out rivals or traitors.
The police chief of Palermo, Matteo Cinque, described Tagliavia’s capture as ″the best way to recall the victims of the massacres″ that killed anti- Mafia investigator Judge Giovanni Falcone exactly one year ago and fellow investigator Judge Paolo Borsellino in July.
Falcone, his wife, and three police escorts died in a bombing of a stretch of highway outside Palermo on May 23, 1992; Borsellino and five police guards were blown up by a car bomb outside the Palermo home of Borsellino’s mother on July 19, 1992.
Students, prosecutors and the victims’ relatives commemorated the two bombings in ceremonies in Palermo and on the mainland Saturday. During the week, state and private television networks ran shows on the killings, which led an outraged public to demand that the state step up its battle against the Mafia.
Tagliavia is suspected in the 1989 slayings of the mother, sister and aunt of Francesco Marino Mannoia, a Mafia turncoat who led prosecutors to probe former Premier Giulio Andreotti for suspected Mafia ties.
Mannoia was one of several ″pentiti,″ or ″repentant criminals,″ to talk to Palermo prosecutors about Andreotti, a senator-for-life whose parliamentary immunity from prosecution was lifted by the Senate earlier this month. Rome prosecutors, leading a separate, corruption probe, asked the Senate to remove the immunity so they can pursue that investigation, the Italian news agency AGI reported Saturday.
During his five years as a fugitive, Tagliavia was tried in absentia, convicted of drug trafficking and Mafia association and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Other murders linked to Tagliavia are the 1988 killings of relatives of another ″pentito,″ Salvatore Contorno, who now enjoys U.S. protection in exchange for helping in U.S. prosecutions of organized crime figures.