, ROME, Dec 6 – Italian police arrested two Mafia leaders, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, a day after he was accused of links to the organisation.
Gianni Nicchi, the 28-year-old thought to be the Mafia\\\’s second in command, was found hiding in an apartment a few hundred metres (yards) from the main court in Palermo, Sicily, Berlusconi told journalists.
Police also arrested alleged Mafia number three Gaetano Fidanzati, 74, on a street in the northern city of Milan, Berlusconi said.
"This is the best response to all the slander made by irresponsible people who, by doing this, are only slinging mud" at Italy, Berlusconi said.
Bersluconi appeared to be referring to testimony by an ex-Mafia member on Friday that mob chief Giuseppe Graviano had said Berlusconi and one of the future prime minister\\\’s allies, Senator Marcello Dell\\\’Utri, had aided the Mafia.
The crime boss said he "got everything thanks to the reliability of these people," before giving the names of Berlusconi and Dell\\\’Utri, the turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza told a Turin court.
Graviano said the Sicilian Mafia had "the country in their hands" thanks to the help they received, Spatuzza said.
Both Berlusconi and Dell\\\’Utri have vehemently denied ties to the Mafia, and after Saturday\\\’s arrests, the prime minister repeated his assertion that his government "had done more than any other to fight organised crime in the last 20 years".
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni welcomed the arrests, while national anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said Nicchi had been last major Palermo criminal at large.
"If we carry on like this, there will be no names left on the list of 30 most wanted criminals," he said.
Nicchi, the son of a Mafia criminal serving a life sentence, was sentenced to 18 years in jail in January 2008 for extortion and Mafia links
A crowd gathered at the Palermo police station to see him arrive, and officers were clearly overjoyed at the arrest.
Fidanzati was freed from prison in 2006 but wanted on suspicion of Mafia links since December 2008.