It is a major strike by the Italian state against the mafia: after three decades on the run, Italy's most wanted mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro has been arrested. According to police general Pasquale Angelosanto, the 60-year-old was arrested on Monday in a private clinic in the Sicilian capital of Palermo. The mafioso, who went into hiding in 1993, is considered the successor to the historical "godfathers" Bernardo Provenzano and Totò Riina, who died in prison. Messina Denaro was sentenced to life imprisonment twice in absentia for murder.
According to Italian news agencies, representatives of the anti-mafia police arrested Messina Denaro at the La Maddalena clinic, where he was being treated for a colon tumor. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke of a "great victory" for the state in the fight against organized crime - it proves that the state "never surrenders" in the fight against the mafia. Messina Denaro was the "most important mafia boss". Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi spoke of an "extraordinary day for the state". President Sergio Mattarella congratulated the security forces on their success. Mattarella is Sicilian himself; his brother Piersanti was murdered by the mafia in 1980 when he was then president of the Sicily region.
Messina Denaro is accused, among other things, of participating in the mafia attacks in Rome, Milan and Florence in 1993, in which a total of ten people were killed. Just months earlier, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra had bombed anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. After the 1993 attacks, Messina Denaro went into hiding. The Sicilian was number one on the list of most wanted criminals by the Italian Ministry of the Interior. Messina Denaro committed his first murder at the age of 18. Years later he is said to have boasted that he could "fill a whole graveyard" with the people he had killed himself.
Since the turn of the millennium, investigators had tried to isolate Messina Denaro with the help of local arrests and confiscations. In 2015, the investigators discovered, among other things, that Denaro, who was born near Trapani in western Sicily, did without modern means of communication in order not to leave any traces. Instead, he used the age-old mafia method of "pizzini" - encoded messages on a small piece of paper - to instruct his henchmen. The only known photo of the fugitive until Monday was from the early 1990s. A photo released by police after the arrest shows the 60-year-old in the back seat of a vehicle. He wears a cream hat, sunglasses, and a brown leather jacket with a cream sheepskin lining.
Watch the video: the mafia took everything from him twice - today this man is again one of the richest entrepreneurs in Sicily.
His arrest comes almost to the day on the 30th anniversary of the arrest of Totò Riina, who had ruled the Sicilian Mafia since the 1970s. Messina Denaro was one of the last Costa Nostra leaders still at large. The Italian state had added to the Cosa Nostra in the past three decades with numerous arrests. In December 2018, for example, the Italian police managed to arrest dozens of mafiosi - among them Settimo Mieno, who was considered the new godfather of the Palermo mafia after Riina's death in 2017.