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Palermo (Italy), March 16 (IANS/AKI) Police in Sicily on Wednesday arrested 62 people in an anti-mafia operation that effectively wiped out two entire crime families in the Palermo area.
The suspects are from the from Palermo's Villagrazia-Santa Maria di Gesu and San Giuseppe Jato clans, police said. They face charges including mafia association, extortion, intimidation, criminal damage, receiving stolen goods, aiding and abetting, and firearms offences, according to police.
Police are also seizing businesses and property linked to the clans.
The operation resulted from two separate investigations into the two clans, which were led by elderly mafia convicts said to be close to jailed mafia 'boss of bosses' Toto Riina: Mariano Marchese, 77, and 81-year-old Gregorio Agrigento, who have already served prison sentences.
Marchese, boss of the Villagrazia-Santa Maria di Gesu clan and Agrigento, who heads the San Giuseppe Jato clan, command an 'army' of 50,000 mafia henchmen in the area around Palermo, according to investigators.
The clans had collected so-called 'protection money' from 16 local business people, none of whom had ever reported their extortionists, for fear of reprisals, police said. (IANS)