Matteo Messina Denaro, the most sought mafia boss in Italy, was apprehended in Sicily after 30 years on the lam.
According to reports, Messina Denaro was detained while undergoing cancer treatment in Palermo, the capital of Sicily.
He was prosecuted and given a life sentence in prison in absentia in 2002 for several killings, and it is suspected that he is a boss of the infamous Cosa Nostra mafia.
His arrest was carried out with the assistance of more than 100 military personnel.
According to Italian media, the Carabinieri apprehended Messina Denaro soon before 10:00 (09:00 GMT) and took him to a hidden location. According to reports, he went to the clinic under a false identity to receive chemotherapy.
In a video that has been circulating in Italian media, Messina Denaro is seen being dragged away as others cheer the Italian police from the street.
The 1992 assassinations of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the deadly 1993 bombings in Milan, Florence, and Rome, and the kidnapping, torture, and murder of the 11-year-old son of a mafioso who later testified as a state witness are among the murders for which he was found guilty.
Messina Denaro allegedly bragged that his victims could “fill a cemetery.”
The formidable Cosa Nostra organized crime syndicate’s mafia boss also handled racketeering, illicit garbage disposal, money-laundering, and drug trafficking. According to rumors, he was Tot Riina’s protege. Tot Riina was the boss of the Corleone family and was apprehended in 1993 after 23 years on the lam.
Clans dubbed Messina Denaro “U Siccu” and “Diabolik,” both of which refer to elusive thieves in comic books (Skinny).
He is regarded as the final “secret-keeper” of the Cosa Nostra. He allegedly has all the details and names of those responsible for some of the Mafia’s most notorious crimes, including the bombings that killed Magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. This is according to many informers and prosecutors.
Even though Messina Denaro had been on the run since 1993, it was believed that he was still giving commands to his staff members from various hidden locations.
By keeping an eye on people closest to Messina Denaro, Italian investigators have frequently come close to apprehending him over the years. As a result, his sister Patrizia and numerous other of his accomplices were detained in 2013. Additionally, Messina Denaro’s lucrative companies were taken by the police, further isolating him.
However, Messina Denaro was rarely captured on camera, so when authorities tried to recreate his appearance decades after he fled, they were forced to rely on computer composites. It took until 2021 for a recording of his voice to be made public.
A Formula 1 enthusiast from Liverpool was detained under duress in a Dutch restaurant in September 2021 after being mistaken for Messina Denaro.
When word of the mafia boss’s arrest came on Monday morning, Italians were glued to their televisions.
Messina Denaro had stood for the state’s incapacity to penetrate the top levels of organized criminal syndicates for years. In the south of the nation, where the state is viewed as mainly absent and useless, his capture will be an unexpected symbol of hope that the mafia can be destroyed.
Professor Anna Sergi of Criminology at the University of Essex told the BBC that Messina Denaro’s arrest was “He was significant not just because he was the Cosa Nostra head, but also because he stands in for the final sought fugitive of the Italian government. Because the news feels like a satisfying conclusion, which is why we witnessed people clapping in Palermo and why the state is triumphant.”
However, concerns about the timing of the arrest are expected to surface.
According to Prof Sergi, “it is still unclear how the Monday morning raid on the clinic came about, who alerted the authorities, or – critically – how Messina Denaro was able to move around Sicily for 30 years while ostensibly protected.”
“Now that she has been treated for cancer, Messina Denaro is pretty ill. Because of this, some claim that someone in the criminal underworld decided he was no longer necessary. This indicates that he was probably still a part of the mafia-state favor-exchange system, where one might be sacrificed in exchange for another, “Added he.
Following the arrest, accolades to the military’s work came from all sides of the political aisle.
Judge and former attorney general Gian Carlo Caselli stated that Messina Denaro’s arrest was a “extraordinary… simple historical occurrence” that might result in important advancements in the ongoing investigations into the 1993 bomb blasts that claimed 10 lives throughout Italy.
Sergio Mattarella, the president of Italy, commended the Carabinieri and the interior minister after his brother Piersanti was murdered by the Cosa Nostra in 1980.
Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, also expressed gratitude to the armed forces for their assistance in apprehending the “most significant member of the mafia criminal gang,” calling it “a major success for the state.”