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THE HODFATHER; Bricklayer Mafia boss built up pounds 400 million fortune.

A Bricklayer who became a Mafia boss was behind bars last night, with his pounds 400million fortune in police hands.

Godfather Vincenzo Piazza, who owned a pounds 200,000 Rolls Royce, a Ferrari, three BMWs and a Porsche, fell foul of Italy's latest drive against the Mob.

Piazza, the 66-year-old son of poverty-stricken parents, had turned himself into the richest man in Sicily.

He ran 2,500 apartments, 122 shops, 10 schools, eight factories, and hundreds of farms. He also had an eight per cent stake in one of Sicily's most profitable banks, which netted him pounds 25million- a-year interest.

But the construction boss dropped a brick when he dodged paying tax on his crooked empire.

In 1989, he declared an income of just pounds 800. Now he is awaiting trial accused of tax fraud and laundering illegal Mafia cash.

Experts reckon his fortune could be double the pounds 400million estimate.

Most of Piazza's companies were in the names of other people, including his wife and daughter.

The family lived quietly in a luxury villa outside Sicily's capital, Palermo.

But behind the high walls of their home they enjoyed the best of everything, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

A expert on the Mob in Sicily said: "The bricklayer kept a low profile while he was laundering millions of pounds of Mafia money.

"He was no show-off. His only extravagance was to ride around his construction sites on a pounds 10,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle. But he always wore a boiler suit, not a suit and tie, and not like the image of a Mafia boss."

Piazza was not a killer, but he was regarded as ruthless and corrupt as the rest of Sicily's gangsters.

His business empire was used to launder their vast profits from drugs to prostitution.

Ottaviano Del Turco, head of Italy's anti-Mafia commission, said yesterday: "This news from Palermo is very encouraging.

"But we have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

"Nine-tenths of the Mafia's wealth is still buried."
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Author:Foreign, MARK DOWDNEY
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 9, 1997
Words:333
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