Arrests conceal deeper malaise

ROME - The Italian government might crow about its recent high-profile Mafia arrests, but experts on organised crime say the successes belie increasing mob infiltration in the country's northern financial heartland.

This month's arrest of Antonio Iovine, a Camorra group boss, was celebrated as a "major blow to organised crime" by Roberto Maroni, the interior minister, who said only two of Italy's 30 most wanted mobsters remain at large.

Arrests of ringleaders are a step forward, though the growing power of clans in less traditional spheres of influence have cast some doubts on Italy's anti-Mafia strategy.

"The government has achieved success arresting bosses," said Anna Bull, professor of Italian history and politics at Bath University in England. "But there is also the financial element," she said.

Mafia groups have traditionally been rooted in the poorer south. But syndicates are increasingly linked with companies and local authorities in Italy's northern regions such as Lombardy, Italy's economic hub.