Giuseppe Grigoli was arrested last year and is in jail while the investigation continues. Anti-Mafia authorities say assets including supermarket outlets, land and cars, were seized Tuesday in Sicily.Italian authorities have seized assets worth euro700 million ($885 million) from a supermarket chain owner suspected of letting the Mafia use his businesses to launder money.Prosecutors told reporters in Palermo that Grigoli's name was found on notes discovered after the 2006 arrest of the Mafia's reputed top boss, Bernardo Provenzano. Provenzano allegedly used the notes to communicate with his lieutenants, which were found in his hideout.Media reports did not identify a lawyer for Grigoli. Nobody at his company was available for comment.700 million euros in assets they believe can be traced to the most important fugitive Cosa Nostra boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, in an operation described as ''historic'' by anti-mafia police. The assets were in the name of 60-year-old businessman Giuseppe Grigoli, who is known as the 'Supermarket King' and has the exclusive franchise for western Sicily of the Despar supermarket chain.
Grigoli was arrested last December for allegedly being Messina Denaro's bagman after his name surfaced in some of the 'pizzini', or hand written messages used to avoid wire tapping and electronic surveillance, found in the hideout of Cosa Nostra superboss Bernardo Provenzano when he was arrested in April 2006.
The assets seized from Grigoli included 12 businesses, 220 real estate holdings - including villas and apartment blocks - and 133 pieces of land for a total of some 60 hectares.''This is one of the most important operations in recent years,'' said Palermo prosecutor Roberto Scarpinato. Investigators believe that through his supermarkets Grigoli was able to launder illicit Cosa Nostra profits and give a legal cover to organized crime operatives. ''Having conquered the food distribution market, Grigoli was able to give jobs to hundreds of people close to Cosa Nostra or recommended by the Mafia,'' Scarpinato said. ''This is one of the examples of Cosa Nostra benefiting in a disproportionate manner from the need for employment in certain social areas,'' he added.President of the Senate Constitutional Affairs Committee Carlo Vizzini congratulated police on sending a ''huge signal'' to mobsters.''The mafiosi must understand that there is no way out for their assets, which sooner or later will be seized and confiscated. For all Mafia men, there will be nothing but prison and poverty,'' he said.
Justice Minister Angelino Alfano also praised the investigation, stressing that ''the key to demolishing the entire criminal system of Cosa Nostra lies in the systematic confiscation of their illegal assets''.
Messina Denaro and Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo took over the reins of Cosa Nostra after Provenzano's arrest and a power struggle appeared to be brewing between them until Lo Piccolo was captured in November 2007.
Since then, 46-year-old Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993, is believed to have effectively taken on the role of Cosa Nostra boss of bosses. A former Porsche-driving playboy from Trapani, Messina Denaro enjoys a semi-mythical status among the younger generations of Cosa Nostra.
The gangster sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months-pregnant girlfriend.