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The Sicilian Mafia Commission, known as Commissione or Cupola, is a body of leading Sicilian Mafia members to decide on important questions concerning the actions of, and settling disputes within the Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra. It is composed of representatives of a mandamento (a district of three geographically contiguous Mafia families) that are called capo mandamento or rappresentante. The Commission is not a central government of the Mafia, but a representative mechanism for consultation of independent Mafia families who decide by consensus. "Contrary to the wide-spread image presented by the media, these superordinate bodies of coordination cannot be compared with the executive boards of major legal firms. Their power is intentionally limited [and] it would be entirely wrong to see in the Cosa Nostra a centrally managed, internationally active Mafia holding company," according to criminologist Letizia Paoli.

The jurisdiction extends over a province; each province of Sicily has some kind of a Commission, except Messina, Siracusa and Ragusa. Initially the idea was that the family bosses would not sit on the Commission, but in order to prevent imbalances of power some other prominent member would be appointed instead. However, that rule was not obeyed from the start. According to the pentito Tommaso Buscetta the Commission first came into being "to settle disputes between members of the various families and their bosses" in order to discipline members of each family. Only later did its function expand to "the regulation of the activities of all families in a province."

History and rules

According to Tommaso Buscetta the first Sicilian Mafia Commission for the province of Palermo was formed after a series of meetings between top American and Sicilian mafiosi that took place in Palermo between October 12-16 1957, in the hotel Delle Palme and the Spanò seafood restaurant. US gangsters Joseph Bonanno and Lucky Luciano suggested their Sicilian counterparts to form a Commission, following the example of the American Mafia that had formed their Commission in the 1930s.

The Sicilians agreed with their suggestion and Buscetta, Gaetano Badalamenti and Salvatore Greco "Ciaschiteddu" set the ground rules. Sometime in early 1958 the Sicilian Mafia formed its first Mafia Commission. It was formed among Mafia families in the province of Palermo, which had the highest concentration of cosche (Mafia families), approximately 46. Salvatore "Ciaschiteddu" Greco was appointed as its first segretario (secretary) or rappresentante regionale, essentially a "primus inter pares" – the first among equals. Initially, the secretary had very little power. His task was simply to organize the meetings.

Before that time the Mafia families were not connected by a collective structure. According to judge Cesare Terranova they "were a mosaic of small republics with topographical borders marked by tradition." In the days before the Commission coordination inside Cosa Nostra was ensured by informal meetings among the most influential members of the most powerful families. In fact, the decision to form a Commission was a formalisation of these occasional meetings into a permanent, collegial body.

Originally, to avoid excessive concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals it was decided that only "men of honour" holding no leadership position within their own family – in other words simple "soldiers" – could be appointed as members of the Commission. That rule was immediately dropped due to the opposition of some Family-bosses who threatened to abandon the project from the start.

The Commission had two main competencies. The first was to settle conflicts among Mafia families and single members, and to enforce the most serious violations of the normative codes of Cosa Nostra. Second, the Commission was entrusted with the regulation of the use of violence. It had exclusive authority to order murder of police officials, prosecutors and judges, politicians, journalists and lawyers, because these killings could provoke retaliation by law enforcement. To limit internal conflicts, it was agreed that each Family boss had to ask the Commission’s authorisation before killing any member of another Family.

Until the early 1980s the Commission’s competencies were often disregarded due to its collegial character and the wide autonomy for the Family bosses. Only when Totò RiinaBernardo Provenzano and the Corleonesi imposed their rule, the Commission became a central leadership body. However, the Commission in fact lost its autonomy and became a mere enforcement body that endorsed the decisions made by Riina and Provenzano.

The first Commission

According to Buscetta the first Commission numbered "not many more than ten" and the number was variable. Among the members of the first Commission in the province of Palermo were:

  • Salvatore Greco "Ciaschiteddu" for the Ciaculli mandamento (Palermo)
  • Antonio Matranga for the Resuttana mandamento (Palermo)
  • Mariano Troia for the San Lorenzo mandamento (Palermo)
  • Michele Cavataio for the Acquasanta mandamento (Palermo)
  • Calcedonio Di Pisa for the Noce mandamento (Palermo)
  • Salvatore La Barbera for the Palermo Centro mandamento
  • Cesare Manzella for the Cinisi mandamento
  • Giuseppe Panno for the Casteldaccia mandamento
  • Antonio Salamone for the San Giuseppe Jato mandamento
  • Lorenzo Motisi for the Pagliarelli mandamento (Palermo)
  • Salvatore Manno for the Boccadifalco mandamento (Palermo)
  • Francesco Sorci for the Santa Maria di Gesù mandamento (Palermo)
  • Mario Di Girolamo for the Corso Calatafimi mandamento (Palermo).

The Commission, however, was not able to prevent the outbreak of a violent Mafia War in 1963. Casus belli was a heroin deal gone wrong, and the subsequent killing of Calcedonio Di Pisa on December 26, 1962, who was held responsible. Instead of settling the dispute, the Commission became part of the internal conflict.

On June 30, 1963, a car bomb exploded near Greco’s house in Ciaculli, killing seven police and military officers sent to defuse it after an anonymous phone call. The outrage over the Ciaculli massacre changed the Mafia war into a war against the Mafia. It prompted the first concerted anti-mafia efforts by the state in post-war Italy. The Sicilian Mafia Commission was dissolved and of those mafiosi who had escaped arrest many went abroad. "Ciaschiteddu" Greco fled to Caracas in Venezuela.

According to Tommaso Buscetta it was Michele Cavataio, the boss of the Acquasanta quarter of Palermo, who was responsible for the Ciaculli bomb, and possibly the murder of boss Calcedonio Di Pisa in late 1962. Cavataio had lost out to the Greco’s in a war of the wholesale market in the mid-1950s. Cavataio killed Di Pisa in the knowledge that the La Barbera’s would be blamed by the Greco’s and a war would be the result. He kept fuelling the war through other bomb attacks and killings.

Cavataio was backed by other Mafia families who resented the growing power of the Mafia Commission to the detriment of individual Mafia families. Cavataio was killed on December 10, 1969, in the so-called Viale Lazio massacre in Palermo as retaliation for the events in 1963. According to Buscetta and Grado, the composition of the hit squad was a clear indication that the killing had been sanctioned collectively by all the major Sicilian Mafia families: not only did it include Calogero Bagarella and Bernardo Provenzano from Corleone, and members of Stefano Bontade's family in Palermo, but also a soldier of Giuseppe Di Cristina's family on the other end of Sicily in Riesi.


The crackdown on the Mafia resulted in a period of relative peace – a "pax mafiosa" – while many mafiosi were held in jail or were banished internally. The verdict of the Trial of the 114 against the Mafia in Catanzaro in December 1968 resulted in many acquittals or short sentences for criminal association. The vast majority of mafiosi had to be released given the time they had already spent in captivity while awaiting trial.

Under these circumstances, the Sicilian Mafia Commission was revived in 1970. It would consist of ten members but initially it was ruled by a triumvirate consisting of Gaetano Badalamenti, Stefano Bontade and the Corleonesi boss Luciano Leggio, although it was Salvatore Riina who actually would represent the Corleonesi, substituting Leggio who was on the run until his arrest in 1974.

In 1974 the 'full' Commission was restored under the leadership of Gaetano Badalamenti. Among the members were:

  • Gaetano Badalamenti for the Cinisi mandamento
  • Stefano Bontade for the Santa Maria di Gesù mandamento (Palermo)
  • Luciano Leggio for the Corleone mandamento, substituted by Salvatore Riina since Leggio was arrested in 1974
  • Antonio Salamone for the San Giuseppe Jato mandamento, often substituted by Bernardo Brusca (father of Giovanni Brusca)
  • Rosario Di Maggio for the Passo di Ragano mandamento (Palermo)
  • Salvatore Scaglione for the Noce mandamento (Palermo)
  • Rosario Riccobono for the Partanna mandamento (Palermo)
  • Giuseppe Calò for the Porta Nuova mandamento (Palermo)
  • Filippo Giacalone for the San Lorenzo mandamento (Palermo)
  • Michele Greco for the Ciaculli mandamento (Palermo)
  • Nenè Geraci for the Partinico mandamento

(Several pentiti, such as Salvatore Cancemi, Francesco Di Carlo and Giovanni Brusca say that Giuseppe Farinella, for the Gangi-San Mauro Castelverde mandamento, Francesco Intile for the Caccamo mandamento and Antonio Mineo for the Bagheria mandamento, were or became members as well.)

During these years tensions between different coalitions within the Commission increased. In this period the Commission was increasingly dominated by the coalition led by Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano that was opposed by Gaetano Badalamenti and Stefano Bontade. Riina and Provenzano secretly formed an alliance of mafiosi in different families, cutting across clan divisions, in defiance of the rules concerning loyalty in Cosa Nostra. This secretive inter-family group became known as the Corleonesi. The wing headed by Badalamenti and Bontade defended the existing balance of power between the single Mafia families and the Commission.

Thanks to a shrewd manipulation of the rules and elimination of its most powerful rivals (in particular the killings in 1978 of Giuseppe Calderone and Giuseppe Di Cristina, members of the Interprovincional Commission) the Corleonesi coalition was able to increase its power within the Commission. Their rivals were overwhelmed and lost any power to strike back. Beside using violence, the Corleonesi also imposed their supremacy by shrewdly exploiting a competence of the Commission: the power to suspend leaders of a Family and to name a reggente, a temporary boss.

The 1978 Commission

In 1978, Gaetano Badalamenti was expelled from the Commission and as head of his Family. Michele Greco replaced him as the secretary of the Commission. Badalamenti’s removal marked the end of a period of relative peace and signified a major change in the Mafia itself. In 1978 the Commission was composed by:

  • Michele Greco for the Ciaculli mandamento (Palermo), acting as the secretary
  • Salvatore Riina, for the Corleone mandamento, often accompanied by Bernardo Provenzano
  • Stefano Bontade for the Santa Maria di Gesù mandamento (Palermo)
  • Salvatore Inzerillo for the Passo di Rigano mandamento (Palermo)
  • Giuseppe Calò for the Porta Nuova mandamento (Palermo)
  • Antonio Salamone for the San Giuseppe Jato mandamento, often substituted by Bernardo Brusca (father of Giovanni Brusca) because Salamone resided in São Paulo in Brazil
  • Salvatore Scaglione for the Noce mandamento (Palermo)
  • Rosario Riccobono for the Partanna mandamento (Palermo)
  • Francesco Madonia for the Resuttana mandamento (Palermo)
  • Nenè Geraci for the Partinico mandamento
  • Calogero Pizzuto representing Agrigento
  • Ignazio Motisi for the Pagliarelli mandamento (Palermo)

The Commission was divided between the Corleonesi (Riina, Calò, Madonia, Brusca, Geraci, Greco Scarpuzzedda, Motisi and probably Scaglione as well) and the group Bontade, Inzerillo and Pizzuto. A third group, Michele Greco, Riccobono and Salamone were not hostile to the group of Bontade but were against Gaetano Badalamenti.

While the more established Mafia families in the city of Palermo refrained from openly killing authorities because that would attract too much police attention, the Corleonesi deliberately killed to intimidate the authorities in such a way that the suspicion fell on their rivals in the Commission. In 1979 Pino Greco from Ciaculli also known as Scarpuzzedda and Riina’s favourite hit man entered the Commission as well.

Instead of avoiding conflict the Commission increasingly became an instrument in the enfolding power struggle that would eventually lead to the quasi-dictatorship of Toto Riina. Members of the Commission were no longer freely selected by the provinces but were chosen on the basis of their allegiance to Riina's faction, and eventually were only called to legitimize decisions that had already been taken elsewhere.

Second Mafia War

The Second Mafia War raged from 1981-1983. On April 23, 1981, Bontade was machine gunned to death in his car in Palermo. Bontade’s close ally, Salvatore Inzerillo, was killed three weeks later with the same Kalashnikov. The Corleonesi slaughtered the ruling families of the Palermo Mafia to take control of the organisation while waging a parallel war against Italian authorities and law enforcement to intimidate and prevent effective investigations and prosecutions. More than 200 mafiosi were killed and many simply disappeared.

In 1982 the Commission members were:

  • Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano for the Corleone mandamento
  • Giuseppe Calò for the Porta Nuova mandamento (Palermo)
  • Michele Greco for the Ciaculli mandamento (Palermo)
  • Giovanni Scaduto for the Bagheria mandamento
  • Rosario Riccobono for the Partanna mandamento (Palermo)
  • Francesco Madonia for the Resuttana mandamento (Palermo)
  • Andrea Di Carlo for the Altofonte mandamento
  • Nenè Geraci for the Partinico mandamento
  • Bernardo Brusca for the San Giuseppe Jato mandamento
  • Mariano Agate for the Mazara del Vallo mandamento (province of Trapani)
  • Pino Greco of Ciaculli

The Commission was now dominated by Riina and Provenzano. More and more the independence of Mafia families was superseded by the authoritarian rule of Riina. Nor did the killing end when the main rivals of the Corleonesi were defeated. Whoever could challenge Riina or had lost its usefulness was eliminated. Rosario Riccobono and a dozen men of his clan were killed in November 1982. In 1985 Pino Scarpuzzedda Greco, Riina’s favourite hit man, was murdered on the orders of Riina, who thought Greco was getting a bit too ambitious for his own good.

The Commission in fact lost its autonomy and became a mere enforcement body that endorsed the decisions made by Riina and Provenzano and their close group of allies. According to Buscetta: "With the power gained by the Corleonesi and their allies the traditional organizational structures had a purely formal value … the decisions were taken before … and the Commission was nothing but the faithful executor of orders."

 Meanwhile, new mandamenti were formed in 1983, whose members entered the Commission: Raffaele Ganci for the Noce mandamento, Giuseppe Giacomo Gambino for the San Lorenzo mandamento, Matteo Motisi for the Pagliarelli mandamento and Salvatore Buscemi for the Passo di Ragano-Boccadifalco mandamento. In 1986-87 the Santa Maria di Gesù mandamento (the former fiefdom of Stefano Bontade) was reinstated, represented by Pietro Aglieri.

Since the arrests as a result of the revelations of pentiti such as Tommaso Buscetta, Salvatore Contorno, Francesco Marino Mannoia and Antonino Calderone, and the Maxi Trial in the 1980s many Commission members ended up in jail. They were substituted by a so-called sostituto or reggente.

The 1992 Commission

In 1992 the Commission that decided to kill the politician and Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti’s right-hand man on Sicily Salvo Lima and the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino was composed of:

  • Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano for the Corleone mandamento
  • Salvatore Cancemi for the Porta Nuova mandamento (Palermo), substituting Giuseppe Calò who was in prison
  • Raffaele Ganci for the Noce mandamento (Palermo)
  • Matteo Motisi for the Pagliarelli mandamento (Palermo)
  • Salvatore Biondino and/or Mariano Tullio Troia for the San Lorenzo mandamento (Palermo), substituting Giuseppe Giacomo Gambino who was in prison
  • Pietro Aglieri and Carlo Greco for the Guadagna-Santa Maria di Gesù mandamento (Palermo)
  • the brothers Giuseppe Graviano and Filippo Graviano for the Brancaccio-Ciaculli mandamento, substituting Giuseppe Lucchese who was in prison
  • Francesco Madonia for the Resuttana mandamento (Palermo)
  • Michelangelo La Barbera for the Passo di Ragano-Boccadifalco mandamento (Palermo), substituting Salvatore Buscemi who was in prison
  • Giuseppe Farinella for the Gangi-San Mauro Castelverde mandamento
  • Giovanni Brusca for the San Giuseppe Jato mandamento, substituting his father Bernardo Brusca who was in prison
  • Giuseppe Montalto for the Villabate mandamento, substituting his father Salvatore Montalto who was in prison
  • Antonino Giuffrè for the Caccamo mandamento
  • Nenè Geraci for the Partinico mandamento
  • Benedetto Spera for the Belmonte Mezzagno mandamento

Provenzano's new Mafia

Provenzano proposed a new less violent Mafia strategy instead of the terrorist bombing campaign in 1993 against the state to get them to back off in their crackdown against the Mafia after the murders on Anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Following the months after Riina's arrest, there were a series of bombings by the Corleonesi against several tourist spots on the Italian mainland – the Via dei Georgofili in Florence, in Milan and the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and Via San Teodoro in Rome, which left 10 people dead and 93 injured as well as severe damage to centres of cultural heritage such as the Uffizi Gallery.

Provenzano's new guidelines were patience, compartmentalisation, coexistence with state institutions, and systematic infiltration of public finance. The diplomatic Provenzano tried to stem the flow of pentiti by not targeting their families, only using violence in case of absolute necessity. Provenzano reportedly re-established the old Mafia rules that had been abolished by Totò Riina under his very eyes when, together with Riina and Leoluca Bagarella, he was ruling the Corleonesi faction.

Giovanni Brusca – one of Riina's hitmen who personally detonated the bomb that killed Falcone, and later became an informant after his 1996 arrest – has offered a controversial version of the capture of Totò Riina: a secret deal between Carabinieri officers, secret agents and Cosa Nostra bosses tired of the dictatorship of the Corleonesi. According to Brusca, Provenzano "sold" Riina in exchange for the valuable archive of compromising material that Riina held in his apartment in Via Bernini 52 in Palermo.

Apparently, the Sicilian Mafia at present is divided between those bosses who support a hard line against the Italian state – mainly bosses currently in jail such as Salvatore 'Totò' Riina and Leoluca Bagarella – and those who support the more moderate strategy of Provenzano. The incarcerated bosses are currently subjected to harsh controls on their contact with the outside world, limiting their ability to run their operations from behind bars under the article 41-bis prison regime. (The human-rights group Amnesty Internationalhas expressed concern that the 41-bis regime could in some circumstances amount to "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" for prisoners.)

Antonino Giuffrè – a close confidant of Provenzano, turned pentito shortly after his capture in April 2002 – alleges that in 1993, Cosa Nostra had direct contact with representatives of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi while he was planning the birth of Forza Italia. The deal that he says was alleged to have been made was a repeal of 41 bis, among other anti-Mafia laws in return for delivering electoral gains in Sicily. Giuffrè's declarations have not been confirmed.

During a court appearance in July 2002, Leoluca Bagarella suggested unnamed politicians had failed to maintain agreements with the Mafia over prison conditions. "We are tired of being exploited, humiliated, harassed and used as merchandise by political factions," he said. Nevertheless, the Italian Parliament, with the support of Forza Italia, subsequently prolonged the enforcement of 41 bis, which was to expire in 2002, for another four years and extended it to other crimes such as terrorism. However, according to one of Italy’s leading magazines, L’Espresso, 119 mafiosi – one-fifth of those incarcerated under the 41-bis regime – have been released on an individual basis.

Division and rivalry

In 2002 a rift within Cosa Nostra became clear. On the one hand there were the hardline "Corleonesi" in jail – led by Totò Riina and Leoluca Bagarella – and on the other the more moderate "Palermitani" – led by Provenzano and Antonino Giuffrè, Salvatore Lo Piccoloand Matteo Messina Denaro. Apparently the arrest of Giuffrè in April 2002 was made possible by an anonymous phone call that seems to have been made by loyalists to the Mafia hardliners Riina and Bagarella. The purpose was to send a message to Provenzano. The incarcerated bosses wanted something to be done about the harsh prison conditions (in particular the relaxation of the 41-bis incarceration regime) – and were believed to be orchestrating a return to violence while serving multiple life sentences.

Targets were to have been Marcello Dell'Utri and former Defence Minister Cesare Previti, both close advisors of then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, according to a leaked report of the intelligence service SISDE. Riina and Bagarella felt betrayed by political allies in Rome, who had promised to help pass laws to ease prison conditions and reduce sentences for its jailed members in exchange for Mafia support at the polls. The SISDE report says they believed that hits on either of the two embattled members of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party — each under separate criminal indictments — would have been less likely to provoke the kind of public outrage and police crackdown that followed the 1992 murders of the widely admired Sicilian prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

According to press reports, when Provenzano was moved to the high security prison in Terni, Totò Riina’s son Giovanni Riina, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for three murders, yelled that Provenzano was a "sbirro" – a popular Italian pejorative expression for a police officer – when Provenzano entered the cell block. The pentito Antonino Giuffrè has said in October 2005 that there had been rumours within Cosa Nostra that Provenzano was an informer for the Carabinieri while he was on the run.

After Provenzano's arrest

After the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano on April 11, 2006 – on the same day as Romano Prodi's victory in the 2006 Italian general election against Silvio Berlusconi – several mafiosi were mentioned as Provenzano's successor. Among the rivals were Matteo Messina Denaro (from Castelvetrano and the province of Trapani), Salvatore Lo Piccolo (boss of Tommaso Natale area and the mandamento of San Lorenzo in Palermo), and Domenico Raccuglia from Altofonte. Provenzano allegedly nominated Messina Denaro in one of his pizzini – small slips of paper used to communicate with other mafiosi to avoid phone conversations, found at Provenzano's hide out.

This presupposes that Provenzano has the power to nominate a successor, which is not unanimously accepted among Mafia observers. "The Mafia today is more of a federation and less of an authoritarian state," according to anti-Mafia prosecutor Antonio Ingroia of the Direzione distrettuale antimafia (DDA) of Palermo, referring to the previous period of authoritarian rule under Salvatore Riina. Provenzano "established a kind of directorate of about four to seven people who met very infrequently, only when necessary, when there were strategic decisions to make." 

According to Ingroia "in an organization like the Mafia, a boss has to be one step above the others otherwise it all falls apart. It all depends on if he can manage consensus and if the others agree or rebel." Provenzano "guaranteed a measure of stability because he had the authority to quash internal disputes." Among the members of the directorate were Salvatore Lo Piccolo; Antonino Giuffrè from Caccamo; Benedetto Spera from Belmonte Mezzagno; Salvatore Rinella from Trabia; Giuseppe Balsano from Monreale; Matteo Messina Denaro from Castelvetrano; Vincenzo Virga from Trapani; and Andrea Manciaracina from Mazara del Vallo.

After the arrests of Benedetto Spera, Vincenzo Virga (both in 2001) and Antonino Giuffrè in 2002 (who decided to cooperate with the authorities), the leadership of Cosa Nostra was in the hands of the fugitives Bernardo Provenzano, Salvatore Lo Piccolo and Matteo Messina Denaro. Following Provenzano's capture in April 2006, Italy's intelligence service report warned of "emerging tensions" between mafia groups as a result of Provenzano's failure to designate either Salvatore Lo Piccolo or Matteo Messina Denaro as his successor. The Direzione Investigativa Antimafia (DIA) cautioned that the capture of Provenzano could potentially present mafia leaders an opportunity to return to violence as a means of expressing their power.

Two months after Provenzano’s arrest, on June 20, 2006, authorities issued 52 arrest warrants against the top echelon of Cosa Nostra in the city of Palermo (Operation Gotha). Study of the pizzini showed that Provenzano’s joint deputies in Palermo were Salvatore Lo Piccolo and Antonio Rotolo, capo-mandamento of Pagliarelli. In a message referring to an important decision for Cosa Nostra, Provenzano told Rotolo: "It's up to you, me and Lo Piccolo to decide this thing." 

The investigations showed that Rotolo had built a kind of federation within the mafia, comprising 13 families grouped in four clans. His right-hand men were Antonio Cinà – who used to be the personal physician of Salvatore Riina and Provenzano – and the builder Francesco Bonura. The city of Palermo was ruled by this triumvirate replacing the Commission whose members are all in jail.

What emerged as well was that the position of Salvatore Lo Piccolo was not undisputed. Authorities said they avoided the outbreak of a genuine war inside Cosa Nostra. The first clash would have been between Rotolo and Lo Piccolo. What sparked off the crisis was a request from the Inzerillo family, one of the clans whose leaders – among them Salvatore Inzerillo – were killed by the Corleonesi during the Second Mafia War in the 1980s and which are now in exile in the United States. Rotolo had passed a death sentence on Lo Piccolo and his son, Sandro, even before Provenzano's arrest – and even procured the barrels of acid that are used to dissolve the bodies of slain rivals.

Reconstitution thwarted

In December 2008, an attempt to reconstitute a new Commission was foiled, when 94 Mafiosi were arrested after a nine-month investigation dubbed "Operation Perseus" (Perseo in Italian; after the Greek mythological hero Perseus who beheaded Medusa). From tapped phone conversations and surveillance, police had obtained a full list of those present and those who had sent their apologies, as well as details of the issues discussed and the decisions adopted.[28][29]

The object, as one tapped Mafioso put it, was to "re-establish Cosa Nostra" in the old style, with a single all-powerful boss, a "capo di capi". Benedetto Capizzi, a 65-year-old boss from Villagrazia, had been nominated as the possible head of the Commission. Among the other members were other historical Cosa Nostra bosses, such as Gerlando Alberti, Gregorio Agrigento from San Giuseppe Jato, Giovanni Lipari, Gaetano Fidanzati, Giuseppe Scaduto from Bagheria and Salvatore Lombardo, the 87-year-old boss from Montelepre. Many of those arrested had recently been released from prison on health grounds, and were serving out their sentences under house arrest.

Among the younger bosses were Gianni Nicchi, the young and upcoming boss from Pagliarelli and Giuseppe Biondino, the son of Salvatore Biondino who had been Riina’s driver. A preliminary summit meeting had been held on November 14, 2008, with Lo Presti, Scaduto, Capizzi – and also Nicchi. The new Commission had the blessing of the old bosses Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, as well as Matteo Messina Denaro, the boss from the province of Trapani. Not everyone agreed, however. Gaetano Lo Presti from the Porta Nuova family objected to the choice of Capizzi as the new head. He committed suicide after his arrest. Police feared the outbreak of a new Mafia war and decided to interfere. Nicchi and Fidanzati escaped the arrests, but were captured later.