Bernardo 'tractor' Provenzano is the current head of the famous criminal fraternity: the sicilian mafia or La Cosa Nostra. He took this position in 1995 after the capture of the previous boss: Leoluca Bagarella.
Provenzano is a member of the Coleone faction of the mafia which rose to power on a tide of violence and murder in the 1960 and 70s. Provenzano was very close to the head of this faction, Luciano Liggio* and the second-in-command (and boss-of-bosses before Bagarella) Totò 'shorty' Riina. He has officially been on the run from the law since 10 September 1963 when he was involved in the shooting of Michele Navarra (his mafia boss) in ordered by Liggio in order to grab power.
In stark contrast to the bloody reigns of the previous two mafia bosses, Provenzano's leadership has been characterised by the strategy of submersion, where mafia activity is slowed and reduced to safer, low-level crime and the rebuilding of networks of contacts. He has also successfully halted the mafia's internal violence; keeping mafia crime below the media radar. Another area in which he has been successful is in reducing the numbers of men of honour defecting and confessing to the police; the huge numbers of such pentiti in the last two decades have been caused by the recent bloody mafia wars that Provenzano has been so successful in stopping.
It could be easy, at this point, to say that the mafia is on the verge of destruction. Many hundreds of men of honour are behind bars and mafia activity is at an all-time low. However, much of this is an intentional product of Provenzano's submersion tactic; the mafia have been close to death before (most notably during Mussolini's reign) but have always managed to come crawling back out of the woodwork when the public spotlight looks elsewhere.
Currently, Italian police believe they are close to catching Bernardo Provenzano. On the 25 January 2005, police in Sicily 46 men suspected of helping Provenzano evade the police (as well as planning other crimes including the murder of a prominent anti-mafia judge) were arrested. It is possible that information gleamed from these men may lead to Provenzano final capture. This would be a huge boost for the police in their current anti-mafia drive. It may be considered that Provenzano's reign has been a relatively quiet one, and his capture may lead to an inter-faction war which could spell the final end of the world's most famous criminal trade mark.
*Luciano Liggio was born Luciano Leggio, but everyone in the Mafia business calls him Liggio. Thanks to Timeshredder for this