The seize of mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro at present was 30 years within the making.
The “last godfather” was one in every of Italy’s most wished fugitives. Despite his bloody previous, his arrest got here with out violence, on a moist January morning in Palermo, Sicily – albeit with greater than 100 members of the armed forces mentioned to be concerned within the operation.
Messina Denaro was being handled for most cancers at Palermo’s La Maddalena non-public hospital beneath the alias of Andrea Bonafede when the police intervened and detained him. He was carrying a watch value €35,000 (£31,000) on the time.
Locals applauded and shook fingers with officers because the 60-year-old convicted killer was taken away in a black van.
His arrest comes 30 years and a day after the search concluded for “boss of bosses” Salvatore “the Beast” Riina after 23 years on the run. Riina, who died in 2017, reportedly mentored Messina Denaro.
Experts in organised crime now doubt the energy of the mafia.
One says there are “no big chiefs anymore” to step up and exchange the likes of Riina and Messina Denaro.
‘He represented all of the secrets and techniques’
Film collection like The Godfather have made mafia teams like Sicily’s Cosa Nostra notorious.
But competitors between gangs has made life tough for the clans figuring out of Italy’s conventional mafia heartlands.
Although Cosa Nostra retains management of its Sicilian territory and a capability to infiltrate the broader financial system, it has been supplanted by teams such because the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta within the medication commerce.
Federico Varese, professor of criminology at Oxford University, mentioned the truth that Messina Denaro – a local of a city in western Sicily – had been arrested within the island’s capital of Palermo says a lot about how Cosa Nostra nonetheless works.
“Mafias are really not global,” he mentioned. “On the contrary, they are very rooted in their territory and fugitives who want to maintain some sort of control and role in the organisation hang around the place where they operate.”
Anna Sergi, an knowledgeable in organised crime at Essex University, thinks Messina Denaro may be the final of his sort.
“Messina Denaro was the last godfather, he represented all the secrets of Cosa Nostra. It is the end of a myth and the organisation will have to cope with this,” she mentioned.
Ms Sergi mentioned it was not clear who would step in to interchange Messina Denaro in what’s now a extra factionalised mafia.
“If Cosa Nostra wants to rebuild the leadership it had in the past it needs directives, but there are no big chiefs anymore,” Ms Sergi mentioned.
She added she expects the group to attempt to rebuild connections with clans within the United States.
Messina Denaro’s bloody historical past
Whatever the longer term holds, Messina Denaro’s violent previous is a matter of document.
Also often called “Diabolik” after an uncatchable comedian ebook thief, he was born in Castelvetrano, Sicily in April 1962; his father Francesco, often called Don Ciccio, was the top of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia within the Trapani area.
He was immersed within the mafia way of life from a younger age. He is alleged to have been skilled to wield a gun at 14 and allegedly dedicated his first homicide when he was 18.
But Messina Denaro is a convicted killer. Despite years on the run, he was convicted of terrible crimes in his absence.
These embody the 1992 killing of anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the lethal 1993 bomb assaults in Milan, Florence and Rome, in addition to the kidnapping, torture and killing of the 11-year-old son of a mafioso-turned-state witness.
What’s extra, it is extensively thought Messina Denaro boasted about his violent deeds. He is claimed to have as soon as mentioned: “I filled a cemetery all by myself.”
In 2002, he was sentenced to a life time period in jail for his involvement within the 1993 bombings.
How crime boss disappeared and evaded seize
When Salvatore Riina was arrested in 1993, Messina Denaro disappeared that summer season after holidaying in Tuscany.
During the years of fleeing from place to position, the mafia boss had a comparatively snug way of life. He apparently performed video video games and entertained many girlfriends, in line with the Washington Post.
But he was energetic sufficient to show a slippery fugitive for a few years, as fellow mobsters would alert him of any police raids and transfer him from hideout to hideout.
No one would hand over his whereabouts, with a strict code of silence – often called “omerta” – adopted by his supporters.
There have been shut calls and false dawns for the police. In 2021, a Formula One fan from Liverpool was arrested by police within the Netherlands. Officers had mistaken him for Messina Denaro.
He was even featured within the Netflix documentary collection World’s Most Wanted. But on Monday he was lastly arrested.
He was caught after investigators confirmed his sickness and his want for remedy on the Palermo clinic, ending his reign as maybe the final mafia “secret keeper”.