Cops seize $10m in fake cash

2009-05-21 12:52

Rome - Italian police said on Thursday they seized $10m in counterfeit cash, guns and thousands of bullets held by a Mafia boss who turned police informant.

The February operation stemmed from information provided by turncoat Fabio Manno, who gave up the location of the stash after he was arrested in December, said police in the Sicilian capital of Palermo.

The money and weapons were found in Manno's garage and hidden inside a wall at the home of his aunt, police said in a statement.

The money, in $100 bills, was of "excellent quality", said Col Jacopo Mannucci Benincasa, the official in charge of the investigation. It had been produced locally with printing machinery that had been dismantled by the time of the raids.

Some of the counterfeit money had been spent, including $500 000 to buy emeralds in Brazil, the statement said.

Italian authorities worked with FBI officials in the United States to track down the bills spent abroad.

Manno was allegedly keeping the money for his ally Gaetano Lo Presti, a top Mafia boss in Palermo who hanged himself in his cell hours after he was arrested last year along with Manno and dozens of other mobsters, police said.

Lo Presti was vying for the leadership of Cosa Nostra, which has been weakened by arrests, and planned to use the weapons and money to eliminate opponents and finance his rise to the top, the statement said.