Mafia: Italy captured the number 1 fugitive who had been on the run for 30 years


Italy’s No. 1 fugitive, convicted Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, was arrested Monday at a private clinic in Palermo, Sicily, after three decades on the run, Italian paramilitary police said. .

Messina Denaro was arrested at the clinic where he was being treated for an undisclosed medical condition, said General Carabinieri Pasquale Angelosanto, head of the police force’s special operations team.

Two Carabinieri officers, each holding an arm, led him down the front steps of the senior clinic and led him to a waiting black van on a gray morning. Messina Denaro is wearing a brown leather jacket trimmed with fleece and a matching white and brown skull cap and his signature stained glasses. His face looked pale and he looked straight ahead. He was taken to an undisclosed location by police shortly after his arrest, Italian state television reported.

A young man in hiding, now 60 years old. Messina Denaro, who has a power base in the port city of Trapani, west of Sicily, is considered Sicily’s top Cosa Nostra boss even while on the run.

He is the last of three longtime fugitive high-ranking Mafia bosses, who have evaded capture for decades, and hundreds of policemen over the years have been tasked with hunting him down.

Messina Denaro, who was tried in absentia and convicted of dozens of murders, faces multiple life sentences.

He will be imprisoned for the two bombings in Sicily in 1992 that killed top anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s wife and several of their bodyguards. Among other grisly crimes he was convicted of was the murder of the young son of a Mafia boss, who was kidnapped and strangled before his body decomposed in a vat of acid.

Monday’s arrest comes 30 years and a day after January 15, 1993, the arrest of “boss of tycoons” Salvatore “Toto” Riina, in an apartment in Palermo after 23 years on the run. . Messina Denaro went into hiding that summer, as the Italian state stepped up its crackdown on the Sicilian crime syndicate following the killings of Falcone and Borsellino.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted that the capture of Messina Denaro was a “great victory for the state, showing that it did not surrender to the Mafia.”

Italy’s Mafia boss, who set the record for longest prison term, was Bernardo Provenzano, arrested on a farm near Corleone, Sicily, in 2006 after 38 years on the run. With Provenzano in police hands, the hunt focused on Messina Denaro, but despite numerous reports of sightings of the boss, he evaded arrest until Monday.

The fact that all three top bosses have finally been arrested in the heart of Sicily while they conduct decades of secret lives should not surprise Italy’s police and prosecutors. Law enforcement has long said that such bosses rely on the connections and confidentiality of fellow bandits and accomplices family members to move fugitives from hiding. refuge after refuge, providing basic needs, such as food, clean clothing and communication, and a code of silence known as an “omerta.”

Riina and Provenzano spent the last years of their lives in Italy’s strictest prison conditions for organized crime bosses who did not repent and refused to cooperate with investigators.

Messina Denaro is said to have led a more laid-back lifestyle during decades of hiding from the police, leading some to speculate whether he would agree to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenient prison conditions. more or not.

During his years on the run, he had a series of lovers and passed the time by playing video games, according to Italian media reports.

One of his girlfriends was arrested and found guilty of hiding him for a time while he was on the run. But while weak to women, Messina Denaro was able to cruelly strangle a woman while she was pregnant, according to Italian media.

Immediately after going into hiding, Messina Denaro sent a letter to his then girlfriend with the content: “You will hear about me, they will paint me as the devil, but it is all a lie.” , ANSA quoted the letter written.

Fearing being tracked using cell phones, Mafia bosses often use handwritten notes known as “pizzini”. When Provenzano was arrested at his rustic, almost rudimentary hideout in the countryside, the police found a trove of such notes.

With the crackdown that began in the 1990s against Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, the island’s mafiosi began to lose their dominance in Italy relative to other organized crime syndicates.

While the Sicilian Mafia was considerably weakened by a small cape army, on land the `ndrangheta, based in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula, gradually eclipsed Cosa Nostra in scope. reach and influence. Unlike Sicily’s criminal syndicates, the ‘ndrangheta attracts its foot soldiers based on familial ties, making it less prone to betrayal. ‘ndrangheta is currently one of the most powerful drug trafficking gangs in the world.

But the Sicilian Mafia still runs the drug trade. Other lucrative illegal businesses include infiltrating public works contracts and blackmailing small business owners, who will be threatened if they don’t regularly pay “protection money”.

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