THE Sicilian mafia and the US mobs once controlled a multi-million dollar industry of vice that spanned the Atlantic, ruling with bloody vengeance.
But as their power base was slowly broken by concerted efforts by authorities in both Italy and the United States, so they have been supplanted by more ruthless gangsters in South America and Eastern Europe.
This week’s arrest of Matteo Messina Denaro, the “last godfather” and boss of the feared Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, is seen by many as marking the end of the fabled crime group.
Denaro spearheaded a brutal campaign of terror in the 1980s and 90s when the Cosa Nostra declared war on the Italian state, murdering judges, bombing churches, and even declaring a vendetta against the pope.
That he was caught living just 10 miles from his birthplace in western Sicily reveals how his inner circle had shrunk smaller and smaller over his 30 years on the run.
But as John Dickie, Professor of Italian at UCL explained, it is just a sign of how far the infamous Cosa Nostra’s fortunes have fallen.
He told The Sun Online: “Mafia bosses who go on the run stay in their local territory. That’s where their organisation and support networks are, and when they can hide most effectively.
“A generation ago, when Denaro went on the run, western Sicily was ‘hostile territory’ for the state.