Settimo Mineo, considered the successor to Sicilian Mafia boss "Toto" Riina, is escorted by Italian Carabinieri officers after his arrest in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, on Tuesday. Photo by Igor Petyx/EPA-EFE
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Italian police on Tuesday arrested dozens of suspected high-ranking members of the Sicilian Mafia -- including 80-year-old Settimo Mineo, considered the top mob boss who replaced deceased Salvatore Riina.
Corriere della Sera and Il Messaggero reported 46 people were arrested, including Mineo.
"In an extraordinary intervention in the province of Palermo, the police have dismantled the new top leadership of Cosa Nostra ... guilty of extortion, arson and aggression," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote in a tweet.
Police say Mineo, who was formally a jeweler, would have taken over the top position of the Sicily-based criminal organization after the death last year of Toto Riina, Il Messaggero reported.
Authorities believe the group returned to a vertical structure led by Mineo, after several years in which the organization appeared to have abandoned an old practice of clan boss meetings, Il Messagero added.
Mineo received a five-year prison sentence in the so called "Maxi Trial" in 1986 and 1987, prosecuted by Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone, who was killed by the mafia years later after he obtained witness testimony that put several Mafia members in jail. Mineo was arrested again in 2016.
The investigation leading to Tuesday's arrest was carried out by authorities that included the top prosecutor in Palermo, the Sicilian capital. The prosecutor said Mineo was recognized by other Mafia members as top boss during a secret meeting by the organization's top leaders that took place on May 29, the paper said.
Mineo "had spoken during the meeting and asked others for respect of the rules," according to the arresting documents issued by the prosecutors, Il Messaggero reported.
At the meeting were four top leaders representing important clans, but Mineo was considered the chieftain because he was the oldest, prosecutors said in a report Tuesday by Corriere della Sera.
Salvatore Riina, known as "Toto" and the "boss of all bosses," was believed by Italian authorities to have led the organization when anti-mob prosecutors Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were assassinated in the 1990s.
Riina was arrested in 1993 after 23 years on the run to avoid imprisonment on pending life sentences. A native of Corleone, Sicily, he died in a prison hospital in 2017. He was considered one of the most violent bosses in the history of the organization, according to media reports.