Fugitive’s arrest like a ‘quake,’ however Mafia very resilient

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ROME — Matteo Messina Denaro’s lengthy file as a killer — turncoat mobsters stated he’d boast of sufficient murders to fill a cemetery — enormously burnished his credentials amongst his friends as a serious boss within the Sicilian Mafia.

After 30 years eluding seize whereas nonetheless working a lot of the Mafia’s affairs, he was arrested Monday at a Palermo clinic, the place the convicted mobster was receiving chemotherapy. However whereas he was hustled off early Tuesday to a maximum-security jail on the Italian mainland, his seize is hardly count on to convey the demise of the Cosa Nostra, because of the syndicate’s greater than century-old roots and guidelines.

“What will happen in detail, we can’t know,” Palermo Prosecutor Normal Lia Sava, stated on Rai state radio about the way forward for the Mafia.

“But one thing is sure. Cosa Nostra is made up of rules. It has supported itself on these rules for 150 years, so certainly it will put into motion those rules to repair the damage, and thus create the new leadership structure needed after the arrest,’’ Sava said.

While Messina Denaro wielded great influence in the Mafia, for decades Cosa Nostra has lacked a supreme capo, investigators say.

The practically mythical figure of a “boss of bosses’’ ended in 1993, with the arrest in a Palermo hideout of Salvatore ”Toto” Riina, who had been Italy’s prime fugitive for 23 years.

Based on trial testimony that led to his conviction for a lot of murders, together with the 1992 bombings that killed Italy’s prime two anti-Mafia magistrates, Riina was answerable for Cosa Nostra’s “commission” that ran illicit companies and devised a method of lethal retaliation in opposition to the state for its crackdown on the mob.

“After Riina there was never an absolute boss,’’ said Rome Chief Prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi, who took up his post last year after serving as Palermo chief prosecutor, helping coordinate the hunt for Messina Denaro.

Even if the “capo di capi” determine nonetheless existed, Messina Denaro wouldn’t have certified as a result of he got here from Castelvetrano on Sicily’s western edge, not from Palermo or its surrounding countryside, Lo Voi famous, citing Cosa Nostra’s guidelines.

Nonetheless, Messina Denaro, the son of a criminal offense boss, “was one of the most important bosses and (he) had ties with other criminal organizations in Italy and abroad,’’ Lo Voi told The Associated Press.

“That’s why his arrest surely represents an earthquake at this moment for Cosa Nostra,’’ Lo Voi said.

Also boosting Messina Denaro’s prestige was his fierce record as a murderous clan boss, holding sway over a large swath of western Sicily, Lo Voi said.

A military plane ferried Messina Denaro Tuesday to a maximum security prison in L’Aquila, in the central Apennine mountains, where strict rules for top organized crime bosses who won’t cooperate with authorities include sharply limited visitor privileges.

Italy’s national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Giovanni Melillo, said that finally putting Messina Denaro behind bars won’t change the strategy Cosa Nostra has followed for more than a decade.

That strategy is “no longer one of violence” in opposition to the state, Melillo stated on state TV Monday evening, referring to the 1992 bombings that killed Palermo prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and the 1993 bomb assaults in opposition to Rome church buildings, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and an artwork gallery in Milan, a part of the Mafia’s bid to attempt to get the state to drop its crackdown on Cosa Nostra.

As an alternative Cosa Nostra is mendacity low, opting to “co-penetrate the social and economic fabric” of Italy, Melillo stated.

A small military of turncoats helped Italian authorities put scores of Cosa Nostra members behind bars in the previous couple of many years, and as a consequence, gave increase to the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate in Italy’s southern “toe,” permitting it to eclipse the Sicilian mob in affect to change into one of many world’s largest cocaine brokers.

Within the Nineteen Eighties, an FBI undercover operation working with Italian investigators, together with Falcone, broke up a multi-million heroin ring and cocaine distribution operation involving Sicilian Mafia figures and the Gambino crime household in New York.

However Cosa Nostra these days “has gone back in a big way to drug trafficking,” together with cocaine, artificial unlawful medication and heroin, Lo Voi stated. With sufficient drug commerce to go round, there’s no actual rivalry between Cosa Nostra and the ‘ndrangheta, he added.

With drug trafficking, “the earnings are enormous and the activity is less dangerous than extortion,” Lo Voi said.

Pressuring local businesses to pay crime clans monthly protection money, known as “pizzo,” has long been a mainstay of Cosa Nostra’s exercise.

However some 15 years in the past, grass-roots teams of younger folks in Palermo rebelled in opposition to their elders’ longtime give up to the apply. Forming a company known as “Addiopizzo,” or “Farewell Pizzo,” they inspired companies to report extortionists to authorities as a substitute of paying them.

Management of native territory is essential for the Mafia’s existence.

Lo Voi stated through the COVID-19 pandemic, neighborhood mobsters provided residents with groceries when breadwinners misplaced jobs.

That complicated relationship — a mixture of profit, worry and even complicity — is suspected of serving to Messina Denaro elude the legislation for 30 years, most of that point in Sicily.

Since his seize, police have been looking out his most up-to-date hideout — a house on a dead-end alley in Campobello di Mazara, close to Trapani. The proprietor is Andrea Bonafede, the title the fugitive used on an identification card to obtain his most cancers remedy.

The actual Bonafede is beneath investigation, together with not less than one of many docs who had been concerned within the fugitive’s remedy on the clinic starting in late 2020, Italian information reviews stated.

Fellow most cancers sufferers instructed La Repubblica day by day that the person who wore designer scarves and painted by hand shirts freely chatted with them whereas receiving chemotherapy and generally gave them bottles of olive oil.

Six years in the past, Italian authorities confiscated 13 million euros value of olive groves and bottling services linked to Messina Denaro within the countryside close to Trapani.

Shouts of “Bravi!” rose on the street outdoors the clinic when two Carabinieri officers introduced him out of the clinic.

However others questioned about why it took many years to seize him.

“I had expected for a long time that it would happen, but it is absurd that it took 30 years,’’ Salvatore Borsellino, brother of the slain prosecutor, told AP in a video interview from Palermo.

It’s clear “that he enjoyed cover” on the native degree, Borsellino stated. “But there must have been institutional complicity” as nicely.

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