Italian police have arrested a woman who is accused of taking over the infamous Cosa Nostra mafia after her husband was jailed.
Prosecutors claim mother of five Teresa Marino, 38, seized control of the gang's drug trafficking network and managed its cocaine shipments after her husband was arrested in April last year. With Tommaso Lo Presti behind bars, Marino is said to have become a more central part of the mafia, at a time when women are controlling more prominent roles in the crime family.
Traditionally, only men become 'mafioso' but there is believed to have been a seismic shift in the way the Cosa Nostra is run.
Marino 'directed all criminal activities of the mafia group', said police, who admitted her husband may still be leaking orders to her from prison. She is also accused of acting as its treasurer and dishing out cash gifts to other wives whose husbands were also in prison, the Telegraph reported.
She and the other 37 people arrested across Italy were charged with extortion, mafia association, drug trafficking, trading in weapons and fraud associated with the bidding of public work contracts.
Palermo prosecutor Leonardo Agueci said: 'The role she assumed as head of the clan shows that times have changed. 'These days there is equality of the sexes even within Cosa Nostra. But this is certainly not the first case of its kind.'
Marino is also accused of being a confidant to other mafia wives who had to give evidence in court. 'She would tell them not to cry in the court room, telling them: "show them you're proud Mafiosi, you must only show your pain at home",' said police colonel Giuseppe De Riggi who was part of the investigation that brought her down.
He added: 'Teresa Marino is an important figure in Cosa Nostra. She exercised power with great authority.'
Police seized around 10kg of cocaine during the arrests made in Palermo, Rome, Naples and Milan.
With Italy cracking down on the Cosa Nostra mafia in recent years, and dozens of senior members now in prison, it has been left to their wives to keep the gang running. Women are also a more dominant force in the country's other big organised crime families, the Naples based Camorra and 'Ndrangheta in Calabria. In 2009, police arrested 11 women who were alleged members of the Camorra and involved in drug trafficking.
Police general Gaetano Maruccia said at the time: 'There is a growing number of women who hold executive roles. 'They are either widows or wives of husbands who have been put in prison. They hold the reins. They're very good at mapping out strategy, even sharper (than the men).'
Thanks to Jay Akbar.
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