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Italian Mafia 'boss of bosses' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina dead at 87

Sicilian Mafia “boss of bosses” Salvatore (Toto) Riina died in the hospital Thursday while serving 26 life sentences. He was 87.

Riina, who was placed in a medically induced coma, died on his birthday hours after the justice minister had allowed his family members bedside visits.

His health deteriorated after two recent surgeries, according to Italian media. Riina was reportedly suffering from kidney cancer, Parkinson’s disease and heart problems. 

“You’re not Toto Riina to me, you’re just my dad. And I wish you happy birthday dad on this sad but important day, I love you,” one of his sons wrote on Facebook, according to AFP.


The scene on the highway near Palermo, Sicily, on May 23, 1992 after a bomb killed anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards. 


Riina was born in Corleone, Sicily, in 1930 as the son of poor farmers.

His father and brother were killed when he was a teenager, and Riina entered the Mafia by committing his first murder at 19.

Riina, who eventually moved up the ranks to become one of Sicily’s most notorious Mafia bosses, was thought to have ordered 150 hits.

1990 file photo

Italian magistrates Giovanni Falcone, left, and Paolo Borsellino are shown in this 1990 file photo. A bomb attack in Sicily robbed Italy of its second leading anti-Mafia investigator in two months.


Among them was the murder of a 13-year-old boy who was strangled and dissolved in acid in order to prevent his father from speaking out against the Mafia.

Riina, nicknamed “The Beast,” was also the mastermind behind a bloody strategy to assassinate Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down the Cosa Nostra.

The bloodbath campaign ultimately backfired on the Cosa Nostra.


In this July 19, 1992 file photo, a police officer walks by the charred remains of the car bomb that killed Sicily’s top anti-Mafia investigator Paolo Borsellino and his bodyguards.

(Alessandro Fucarini/AP)

After bombs killed Italy’s two leading anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two months apart in 1992, the state stepped up its crackdown on Sicily’s Mafiosi.

Riina was captured in a Palermo apartment six months later. He remained steadfast in his refusal to collaborate with law enforcement and was sentenced to 26 life sentences for murder. 

He was imprisoned under a law that requires strict security for top mobsters, including being detained in isolated sections of prisons with limited time outside their cells.


Riina, who was placed in a medically induced coma, died on his 87th birthday hours after the Justice Minister had allowed his family members bedside visits.


In July, a court denied a request by Riina’s family to transfer the convicted mobster to house arrest because of his ailing health.

Riina was reportedly caught on wiretap this year saying he “regrets nothing.”

With News Wire Services

associated press
world newswires

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