PALERMO, Sicily, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Close family members of the Sicilian Mafia's fugitive "boss of bosses" were arrested on Friday in one of most significant anti-crime operations in Sicily in years, police said.
Police hunting Matteo Messina Denaro, who took over the reins of Sicily's Cosa Nostra as a fugitive after his predecessors were nabbed in recent years, arrested his sister, his nephew and two cousins.
In total, police said some 30 people were arrested around Trapani in the west of the Italian island in a major operation that they called a "hard blow" to the Mafia leadership around the fugitive boss.
Messina Denaro, 50, was once known as the "Playboy Boss" because he liked fast cars, women and gold watches. He has been a fugitive since 1993.
He has been running the crime group since the arrest in 2006 of Bernardo Provenzano after nearly four decades as a fugitive.
Police said they believed Messina Denaro's 43-year-old sister Patrizia and other arrested family members maintained contact with the boss and helped him run the crime syndicate.
The arrested were accused of belonging to a criminal group and extortion related to the control of a number of construction companies in Sicily.
They also said they confiscated some 5 million euros ($6.88 million) worth of property believed to belong to the missing crime boss and his family. ($1 = 0.7271 euros) (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alister Doyle)