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Italian police arrest 37 accused Mafia members, including Sicilian mayor

PALERMO, Sicily -- Italian authorities arrested 37 people accused of involvement in the Sicilian Mafia, including the mayor of a town on the island, police said on Monday.

The arrests, on charges including organized crime and extortion, were ordered by the Palermo anti-Mafia office to tackle what police said was a network to control businesses in towns around Sicily's capital.

Among those arrested was the mayor of Montelepre, a town of 6,000 famous as the home of 1940s "Robin Hood" bandit leader Salvatore Giuliano, as well as a livestock breeder who police said was the head of the ring.

Anti-Mafia prosecutor Francesco Messineo told reporters the investigation had revealed a concerted attempt to influence local politics. "Here we have two municipal governments ... that have been the subject of strong Mafia contamination," he said.

Italy has long struggled against the ingrained influence of mafia organizations whose operations are estimated to constitute up to 10 percent of gross domestic product.

Italy's main crime groups -- the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra from the southern city of Naples -- have a total annual income of $151 billion, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Last week Italy made its biggest confiscation of Mafia assets in history, seizing dozens of green-energy companies and other assets worth a total of $1.69 billion.

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