Mafia rivals battle to be 'Godfather'

According to his warders, he is behaving like a model Mafioso. Bernardo Provenzano, 73, captured head of the Mafia and nicknamed the Bulldozer, has been scrupulously polite to prison officers.

According to his warders, he is behaving like a model Mafioso. Bernardo Provenzano, 73, captured head of the Mafia and nicknamed the Bulldozer, has been scrupulously polite to prison officers. When his request for the Bible he had been using in his spartan hideout in Sicily's Corleone was turned down, he accepted the decision without rancour.

Held in isolation in jail, he continues to demonstrate his fanaticism for healthy eating and drinks only a cup of milky coffee in the morning, followed by pasta or rice with tomatoes for lunch and a second course of meat or boiled vegetables. He has vegetable soup in the evening. But behind the good manners remains the man of steel who ran one of the most vicious criminal networks in the world. He has refused to say more than a few words to any investigator.

His behaviour is in sharp contrast to the bearing of one of the two men tipped to take over from Provenzano - 46-year-old Matteo Messina 'Diabolik' Denaro, known as the 'playboy boss'.

He has been a fugitive for 13 years and in his last photo looked like a trim, fashionably coiffed manager on the make. He enjoys an almost mythical status among younger Mafiosi and sealed his brutal reputation by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his pregnant girlfriend.

His rival is fellow Provenzano lieutenant Salvatore 'White Fox' Lo Piccolo, 63, an old-style boss from Palermo.

Both men - and much of Italy - will be watching when Provenzano makes his first appearance by video link in court to see whether he abides by the organisation's code of silence - or omerta.

According to his lawyer, he could be present at the hearings in May of eleven of his men charged with helping to protect him while he was on the run. If Provenzano does attend, it could also make sure none of them is tempted to co-operate with the authorities.

Provenzano has already been sentenced in absentia to life at least six times for his own crimes, which include co-ordinating the 1992 killings of two judges.

Contributor

Barbara McMahon in Corleone

The GuardianTramp

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