Italy steps up hunt for Mafia boss after French sortie

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

ROME, March 8 (AFP) - Police on Tuesday published a new computer-generated image of Italy's most wanted man to give an idea of what he would look like today and help investigators track down Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano.

ROME, March 8 (AFP) - Police on Tuesday published a new computer-generated image of Italy's most wanted man to give an idea of what he would look like today and help investigators track down Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano.

The Sicilian Mafia's top chief, now 72, who has defied attempts at capture for the past 40 years, was believed to have travelled to Marseille in the south of France in the summer of 2003 for prostate surgery and to have later claimed social security benefits under an assumed name.

The new image which replaces pictures dating back to 1954 and 1959 as well as a composite picture drawn in the late 1990s has been shown to the French doctors who helped the police make slight changes.

The latest image shows a tired-looking man with short, receding and combed-back white hair.

Palermo prosecutor Piero Grasso told reporters that witnesses who knew Provenzano confirmed that the computer-generated image was "very close to reality." Because of illness, he was "thinner and looking older" than in images made in the 1990s.

The daily La Repubblica quoted Grasso as saying the image would help avoid false identification, which has led to several cases of innocent people being arrested on suspicion they were the Mafia boss. A man was recently stopped at Rome's Fiumicino airport and held for several hours because he was mistaken for Provenzano

The prosecutors' office in Palermo last month looked at files in the regional social security offices to investigate the possibility that the costs of Provenzano's trip to France were reimbursed by the national health system.

The affair came to light after police seized documents in a series of raids in January in which some 50 Mafia suspects were arrested.

Investigators believe Provenzano travelled to Marseille in July 2003 under the name of Gaspare Troia, a Sicilian baker, for a consultation with a specialist.

La Ciotat clinic in Marseille confirmed that a patient named Gaspare Troia had indeed been treated there. It described him as "a quiet man who returned to Sicily after his operation".

Provenzano became "the boss of all bosses" in 1993 following the arrest of Toto Riina, the Mafia chief known as "The Beast," in January 1993.

Riina is in jail for life.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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