Italy’s most-wanted Mafia boss nabbed after 30 years on run

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ROME — Italy’s No. 1 fugitive, a Mafia boss convicted of serving to to mastermind a number of the nation’s most heinous slayings, was arrested Monday when he sought remedy at a non-public clinic in Sicily after three many years on the run.

Matteo Messina Denaro was tried in absentia and convicted of dozens of murders, together with serving to to mastermind, together with different Cosa Nostra bosses, a pair of 1992 bombings that killed high anti-Mafia prosecutors — and led the Italian state to stiffen its crackdown on the Sicilian crime syndicate. He faces a number of life sentences that he’s anticipated to serve in a most safety jail and beneath the notably restrictive circumstances reserved for high organized crime bosses.

He went into hiding a yr after these bombings whereas nonetheless a younger man — however he was nonetheless thought of certainly one of Cosa Nostra’s high bosses whilst a fugitive. A whole lot of law enforcement officials have been tasked through the years with monitoring him, the final of three longtime top-level Mafia bosses who managed to elude seize for many years.

He’s now 60, and his well being situation helped investigators zero in on him, in response to Carabinieri Gen. Pasquale Angelosanto, who heads the police power’s particular operations squad.

“It all led to today’s date (when) he would have come for some tests and treatment” on the clinic, the Carabinieri normal mentioned.

Authorities didn’t say what he was being handled for, however he was captured at La Maddalena clinic in Palermo, an upscale medical facility with a repute for treating most cancers sufferers, and Italian media mentioned he was present process remedy for a yr.

Throughout a night information convention, authorities mentioned Messina Denaro’s remedy might proceed at a hospital jail ward.

Investigators mentioned he was unarmed and dressed like a typical affected person on the clinic, although carrying a watch price a minimum of 30,000 euros (about $33,000).

“He didn’t resist at all,” Carabinieri Col. Lucio Arcidiacono informed reporters.

A pair of Carabinieri officers, every holding an arm, walked Messina Denaro down the entrance steps of the clinic to a ready black van in pouring rain. He was wearing a brown leather-based jacket trimmed in shearling, an identical white-and-brown cranium cap and his trademark tinted glasses. His face seemed wan and he stared straight forward.

Shortly after his arrest, the solar peeked by means of, and a rainbow may very well be seen within the sky over the clinic.

When dozens of law enforcement officials, carrying ski masks, converged on the clinic, native residents knew one thing huge was about to occur. When Messina Denaro was introduced outdoors, applause rang out on the sidewalks.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia informed reporters that the fugitive had used the pseudonym Andrea Bonafede and had an Italian identification card in that identify. He used the alias — the surname roughly means “good faith” in Italian — to guide a morning appointment on the clinic.

Along with convictions for the killings of prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, he was additionally discovered responsible of killing Falcone’s spouse and several other of their bodyguards in addition to the grisly homicide of a Mafia turncoat’s younger son, who was kidnapped and strangled earlier than his physique was dissolved in a vat of acid.

He additionally was amongst Cosa Nostra bosses convicted of ordering a sequence of bombings in 1993 that brought on fatalities and broken the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, two main church buildings in Rome and an artwork gallery in Milan.

“We captured the last of the massacre masterminds” of the 1992-1993 Mafia killings, prosecutor De Lucia mentioned. “It was a debt that the Republic owed to the victims of those years.”

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni tweeted that Messina Denaro’s seize is a “great victory of the state, which shows that it doesn’t surrender in the face of the Mafia.”

Monday’s arrest got here 30 years and a day after the Jan. 15, 1993, seize of Mafia “boss of bosses” Salvatore “Toto” Riina, in a Palermo residence, after 23 years on the run. Messina Denaro went into hiding in the course of the summer season of that yr.

The Italian Mafia boss who set the report for the longest time on the lam was Bernardo Provenzano. He was captured in a farmhouse close to Corleone, Sicily, in 2006 after 38 years as a fugitive. As soon as Provenzano was in police palms, the hunt targeted on Messina Denaro, who managed to elude arrest regardless of quite a few reported sightings, together with in northern Italy.

That each one three high bosses have been finally arrested within the coronary heart of Sicily whereas they performed clandestine lives for many years received’t shock Italy’s police and prosecutors. Regulation enforcement officers have lengthy mentioned that such bosses depend on contacts and the confidentiality of fellow mobsters and complicit members of the family to maneuver them from hideout to hideout, provide meals, clear clothes and communication, and a code of silence referred to as “omertà.”

However Messina Denaro, in addition to staying in hideouts in Sicily, additionally traveled overseas whereas a fugitive, together with to Marseille, the French port metropolis, the place he underwent surgical procedure some years in the past, in response to investigators.

Riina and Provenzano lived out the final years of their lives within the strictest of Italian jail circumstances reserved for unrepentant organized crime bosses and refused to cooperate with investigators.

Some have speculated whether or not Messina Denaro would possibly conform to cooperate with prosecutors in trade for extra lenient jail circumstances.

Throughout his years on the run, he had a sequence of lovers and handed time by enjoying video video games, in response to Italian media stories. Messina Denaro is believed to have fathered two youngsters whereas a fugitive. One in every of his girlfriends was arrested and convicted of getting hidden him for a time.

Proper after he went into hiding, Messina Denaro despatched a letter to his then-girlfriend that Italian information company ANSA mentioned learn: “You’ll hear talk about me, they will paint me like the devil, but it’s all falsehoods.’’

Wary of being located through cellphone use, Mafia bosses frequently resort to handwritten notes known as “pizzini.” When Provenzano was nabbed in his rustic hideaway, police discovered a stash of such notes.

On Monday, Italian state TV transmitted what it mentioned was an audio recording of a 1993 look by Messina Denaro earlier than a Sicilian court docket. A decide sought to verify his identification and requested fundamental inquiries to fill out paperwork.

When requested his occupation, he replied “farmer” and added that his brother was a banker and his 4 sisters homemakers. For his residence, he cited Castelvetrano, a farm city close to Trapani, which was his crime clan’s energy base and the place he was assured of logistics assist throughout his time as a fugitive, in response to investigators.

The brother was convicted years in the past of Mafia affiliation. One of many sisters was convicted of serving to run the crime clan throughout Messina Denaro’s years on the run, Italian information stories mentioned.

With the crackdown that started within the Nineties in opposition to Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, the island’s mafiosi began dropping their dominance in Italy in comparison with different organized crime syndicates.

Because the Sicilian Mafia was considerably weakened by a small military of turncoats, on the mainland, the ‘ndrangheta syndicate, based in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula, steadily eclipsed Cosa Nostra in reach and influence.

Unlike Sicily’s crime syndicates, the ‘ndrangheta draws its foot soldiers based on family ties, leaving it less vulnerable to those who cooperate with investigators. The ’ndrangheta is now one of many world’s strongest cocaine traffickers.

However the Sicilian Mafia nonetheless runs drug trafficking operations. Different profitable illicit companies embrace infiltration of public works contracts and extortion of small enterprise house owners who’re threatened in the event that they don’t frequently pay “protection money.”

This story has been up to date to appropriate that Messina Denaro is certainly one of six youngsters, not the daddy of six youngsters, and to appropriate the date of his court docket statements to a 1993 look earlier than a decide.

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