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International

Mafia Boss Riina 'the Beast' Dies of Natural Causes

12:20, Friday, 17 November, 2017
Mafia Boss Riina 'the Beast' Dies of Natural Causes

Salvatore "Toto" Riina, the most powerful and feared Sicilian Mafia boss of the 20th century, died of natural causes early on Friday after almost a quarter century in jail, Italy's Justice Ministry said.

Riina, who turned 87 on Thursday, died in the prison ward of a hospital in Parma, the northern Italy city where he had been serving 26 life sentences for dozens of murders committed between 1969 and 1992.

Nicknamed "the Beast", “Riina began his violent criminal career on the dusty streets of Corleone after World War Two and became the Sicilian Mafia's boss of bosses when it reached its 20th century apex.

Riina oversaw a flourishing economic period for organized crime group Cosa Nostra, or "Our Thing", when it was trafficking heroin to North America and pulling the levers of political power in Palermo and Rome.

But due to Riina's savagery, hundreds of mobsters broke their code of silence in the 1980s and 1990s and testified against him, allowing magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino to uncover the long-hidden secrets of Cosa Nostra and prosecute its leaders for the crimes of its soldiers.

Riina's 1993 arrest, after more than 20 years as a fugitive, came just months after Falcone and Borsellino were blown up on his orders, and coincided with the tumultuous downfall of Italy's corrupt post-war political system.

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