For 43 years, the head of Sicily’s notorious Cosa Nostra organization had eluded arrest, moving from hideout to hideout in the rugged hills of western Sicily while running the world’s best-known organized-crime syndicate. Until Tuesday, when his wife did his laundry and he got caught. In what Italian officials described as the culmination of an elaborate investigation, police tailed a network of couriers who delivered Bernardo Provenzano’s laundry from his wife’s home to the nearby farmhouse where he was holed up. Provenzano, 73, was living just a mile and a half from Corleone, the Sicilian town where Provenzano was born and that was immortalized by the movie “The Godfather.”
He was anointed the real-life godfather of the Sicilian Mafia in 1992, 21 years after he went on the lam for killing a rival. Provenzano has since been held responsible for dozens, even hundreds, of murders. His capture raises questions about why it took so long to find Italy’s most wanted man in such a small corner of a tiny island. One problem, police often complained, was that no one knew for sure what Provenzano looked like since the last available picture of him had been taken in 1959. Provenzano shunned telephones for fear of being caught and communicated with his organization and family through written notes, delivered through a network of loyal men. Police finally found him by tracking his couriers.