30 years of secrets protected Messina Denaro | International

Matteo Messina Denaro, the last great boss of Cosa Nostra, was the most wanted criminal in Italy. For 30 years he was the great obsession of the State. A kind of Moby Dick whose disappearance came to compromise the reputation of the country’s magistracy and police. But the ghost was suddenly arrested last Monday at a clinic in Palermo where cancer had been treated for more than a year. It turned out that he lived in Campobello di Mazara, a small Sicilian town, just three kilometers from his hometown, where his mother still resides. He went to the bar, to the purchase, to have dinner regularly at a pizzeria. He even regularly went to a Palermo boutique to indulge in luxury treats, such as the 35,000-euro Franck-Muller watch he was wearing on his wrist when he was arrested. Why has no one managed to arrest him in 30 years? There is something wrong with the official account of the capture, which is explained, according to the magistrates and experts consulted, through the different levels of omerta that have marked the compass of his escapade.

Messina Denaro, no one doubts it today, has enjoyed three effective spheres of protection in recent years. High-level coverage, which has implicated administration officials and politicians (there have been multiple arrests over the years). He also used a middle step, in which his profitable businesses were a link with businessmen and he was assisted by doctors, lawyers and service providers who looked the other way when necessary. Investigators call it “mafia bourgeoisie”. And, finally, he was never betrayed either by his countrymen who, as has happened in Campobello di Mazara or Castelvetrano, always saw him as a benefactor. “He is a good man. And it was a mistake to arrest him”, a resident of Castelvetrano protested to this newspaper last Wednesday. “The province of Trapani has a very strong mafia density and they do not trust the State. If you have to look for work and food, only gangsters guarantee it. It’s the big problem, the mafia culture. Individual mafiosi can be defeated”, explains the Sicilian journalist Attilio Bolzoni, one of the greatest experts on Cosa Nostra.

Carabinieri in the Sicialian town of Campobello di Mazzara, where the mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was taking refuge.
Carabinieri in the Sicialian town of Campobello di Mazzara, where the mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was taking refuge. Paolo Manzo

The reason for the protection at the highest level, for some judges and experts consulted, are the secrets that the last great boss of Cosa Nostra has handled about the bloodiest period of the organization and the attacks of 1992 and 1993 in Rome, Milan, Palermo and Florence. Saverio Lodato, journalist and essayist, friend of judge Giovanni Falcone, assassinated by the Cosa Nostra with one of those bombs in 1992, believes that “the secrets he kept have protected Messina Denaro.” “He has the data of 30 years of secrets between the State and the mafia, of the relationship they had. He has now been arrested because the times are ripe and he was probably tired of living in these conditions. He will have to understand if he wants to live in jail or collaborate. In this case, it is worth asking what comes first, the omerta of the people or the state. They always go hand in hand, ”she points out.

Italy has lived for years pending the results that the Trattativa stato-mafia case (state-mafia negotiation). An investigation that searched for years for evidence of the negotiation that could have taken place between the organization then led by Totò Riina ―heading it during the eighties and early nineties― and the Italian Government. The suspicion is that in exchange for stopping the attacks, the State was willing to soften the harsh prison conditions of 400 detainees and grant them other legal privileges.

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Nino Di Matteo has been the magistrate in charge of scrutinizing the issue in recent years. He has no doubt that this is one of the elements that has kept Messina Denaro free. “Unfortunately, our country has gone through similar situations on other occasions. Riina was also a fugitive for 23 years, Provenzano, 43. Legal history, sadly, has taught us that these escapes have been so long because the protection network around them was not only mafioso, but, in many cases, also woven by political, business and professional environments. Even institutional. Now it will be necessary to determine if MMD [Matteo Messina Denaro] It has also had coverage and private protection ”, he points to the phone.

View of the damage caused to the highway that connects the city of Palermo with its airport, caused by the attack against the anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three policemen who were escorting him, on May 23, 1992.
View of the damage caused to the highway that connects the city of Palermo with its airport, caused by the attack against the anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three policemen who were escorting him, on May 23, 1992.Nino Labruzzo (AP)

One of the judges who knows the Messina Denaro case best is the Sicilian Roberto Scarpinato, who for years investigated Cosa Nostra and the clan of Corleoneseforming part of the legendary team Giovanni Falcone’s anti-mafia. “MMD was one of those who attacked in 1992 and 1993, and one of the few who knows very important secrets that involve powerful men and accomplices of the mafia. During the investigations we carried out on him, we verified how police officers protected him, who gave him information to avoid his arrest. Some were arrested and others sentenced”, points out this magistrate, currently a senator.

Shortly after, Scarpinato evokes a disturbing episode on television recently experienced. “Two months ago, another important mafia boss in jail, Giuseppe Graviano, sent one of his men on television to publicly announce that MMD was seriously ill and would allow himself to be arrested in exchange for a secret negotiation that would have allowed him to future the release of other godparents sentenced to life imprisonment for the attacks. They also have information about state secrets, ”he points out. And the prophecy of that man, launched in full prime timeit was fulfilled.

The investigation that has led to Messina Denaro, led from the Palermo Prosecutor’s Office by the office’s deputy, Paolo Guido, has been carried out in an artisanal way; with the old method of General Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa, assassinated by the Cosa Nostra in 1982: listening, monitoring and checking one by one lists of patients who could suffer from the same cancer. The disease and its derivatives, in fact, were the fugitive’s Achilles heel, which probably relaxed his precautions. In recent times, in fact, it had become selfies with nurses from the clinic and exchanged telephone numbers with some patients.

Italy is now divided between those who think he was arrested and those who believe he had himself arrested. Doubts that Judge Scarpitano also shares. “Lately, all of his behaviors had changed. He had given up the sophisticated methods he used before, and has made a series of rookie mistakes, such as using mobile phones, making selfies, chat on WhatsApp, or use documents that belonged to relatives of other mafia bosses,” he says. “It is utter nonsense. Nobody wants to be arrested, especially not him,” sources from the investigation point to this newspaper. “But it is true that his state of health and a certain exhaustion of him may have influenced him to be less cautious.”

Robot portraits that for years the police used to search for clues about Messina Denaro.
Robot portraits that for years the police used to search for clues about Messina Denaro.PA

Messina Denaro always had excellent contacts with the highest levels of the country. In fact, something happened last December that could be linked to his arrest. The father of the Cosa Nostra boss began his criminal career as a guardian of the land of the D’Alì family, owners of Banca Sicula (which was the most important in Sicily until in 1994 it was absorbed by another banking group). The two families became friends and prospered in different ways. Antonio D’Alì, son of the founder, was later a senator for Forza Italia and Secretary of State for the Ministry of the Interior. Last December he had to turn himself in to justice after being sentenced to six years in prison for crimes related to the mafia. It was exactly one month before Messina Denaro was arrested.

No one doubts, however, that Messina Denaro was protected. Bolzoni also believes that security was provided by “state apparatuses”. “For the first time, some spheres of the magistracy have worked well. But the Capaci crater is too big to enter a court now, ”he points out, referring to the attack that killed Falcone and four people, including his wife and his escort. The documentation found so far does not allow us to think that there will be answers to the great questions of the last 30 years. But if Matteo Messina Denaro was the last capo, who’s in charge now? “There is no clear leader. He commands a business sector linked to the mafia bourgeoisie. The Cosa Nostra returned to its original nature when the violent parenthesis of the Corleonese. Now it’s a real mafia. He does business, infiltrates… he doesn’t want problems with the State”. A new era begins now, in short, which will no longer have to deal with its past.

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