Matteo Messina: who is the most wanted capo of the Italian mafia who was arrested after 30 years on the run
- BBC News World
He is nicknamed “Diabolik” and considered the “most significant” mafia leader in Italy.
His name is Matteo Messina Denaro and since this Monday, January 16, he has been under arrest after 30 years on the run from the authorities.
“Today, January 16, the carabinieri arrested the fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro inside a health facility in Palermo, where he had gone to receive therapeutic treatment,” said Pasquale Angelosanto, general of the national police of the carabinieri.
Messina Denaro is considered the leader of the group la Cosa Nostra and he has been a fugitive since the 1990s, when the Sicilian mafia increased its campaign of murders and attacks in various cities of the country.
For several of these crimes he was tried and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment.
These include the 1992 murder of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellinothe deadly 1993 bombings in Milan, Florence and Rome, and the kidnapping, torture and murder of a mobster’s 11-year-old son turned state witness.
“Is a great victory for the state“, celebrated the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Messina Denaro is said to have once boasted that he could “fill a graveyard” with his victims.
At 60, the capo headed the list of the most wanted criminals in Italy. He is accused of mafia association, multiple murders and use of explosives.
“An extremely dangerous fugitive,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi described him.
Messina Denaro was on the run since 1993but it is thought that he was still issuing orders to his employees from various secret locations.
The capo also oversaw various organized crime activities, including illegal dumping, money laundering, and drug trafficking for Cosa Nostra.
Messina Denaro was reportedly the protégé of Salvatore Riinathe head of the Corleone clan who was arrested in 1993 after 23 years on the run.
His capture comes a day after the 30th anniversary of the arrest of Riina, who died in 2017.
La Cosa Nostra is the mafia group represented in the mythical films of “The Godfather”.
A “myth” of the mafia
The leader was arrested in a clinic in Palermo. He had been receiving treatment for colon cancer for a year under an assumed name.
He did not resist being captured, according to the ANSA news agency.
Anna Sergi, a criminology expert for the University of Essex, described Messina Denaro as “the last, the most resilient and the ‘purest’ of the remaining Sicilian mobsters”.
“The secrets that he is said to be keeping fuel the conspiracies surrounding the deals between the mafia and the state in the 1990s,” Sergi told AFP.
“He is the essence of the great historical power of Cosa Nostra. The myths surrounding his period on the run are part of the reason why the mafia myth endures,” added the specialist.
State victory against organized crime
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Messina Denaro was the “most significant” boss of the mafia and that his arrest was “a great victory” for the state in its war against organized crime.
Photographs released by the police show the kingpin sitting in the back seat of a vehicle. He wears a light beanie, sunglasses, and a leather jacket.
Before this image, the oldest known photo dates from the early 1990s.
Police have had to rely on digital reconstructions of his appearance over the decades he has been on the run.
During this time, the investigators surrounded him through several of your closest associates. This resulted in the arrest of her sister Patrizia and other associates in 2013.
Authorities also seized various businesses linked to Messina Denaro, leaving him increasingly isolated.
In 2015, the police discovered that Messina Denaro was communicating with his collaborators through the pizzini system, leaving small folded paper notes under a rock on a Sicilian farmhouse.
Researchers spent decades recording the homes and businesses of the chief’s known allies on the island.
They searched for caches in grottoes, caverns, or even bunkers inside buildings where it might be hidden.
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