The arrest of mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro raises questions about how he stayed at large for so long


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The arrest of Cosa Nostra mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro at a Non-public clinics in Palermo on Monday surprised many around the globe as a result of terribly very long time he had been on the run – however got here as no shock to some who have been watching the mafia extra carefully.

Rumors of his ailing well being had been circulating in Sicily for months, with hints of a “deal” to deliver him again to the floor for higher most cancers remedy. When officers requested him his identify, he selected to not use his alias, Andrea Bonafede, Palermo prosecutor Maurizio de Lucia, advised reporters.

“I am Matteo Messina Denaro,” he mentioned as an alternative — in all probability the primary time he is uttered these phrases publicly within the 30 years he is been on the run.

Messina Denaro, who’s being held in a maximum-security jail in L’Aquila in central Italy, failed to seem by way of video hyperlink for a listening to on Thursday – over the 1992 killing of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – and left his lawyer in his take part names.

Messina Denaro, nicknamed “Diabolik,” went into hiding in 1993, only a yr after Falcone and Borsellino have been killed in double bombings. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Might 2002 for his half in her dying in absentia, however following his arrest the case is now being tried in larger courts.

That yr he was additionally convicted of the murders of 12-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of a defector, and the homicide of Antonella Bonanno, the pregnant accomplice of a rival boss. Each circumstances are additionally being tried in larger courts now that he has been arrested.

A television screen in a special bunker yard in Caltanissetta, Sicily, January 19, 2023 shows an empty chair where Matteo Messina Denaro was supposed to appear from prison via video link.

After his arrest, police discovered at the very least two hiding locations within the Sicilian city of Campobello di Mazara, the place he’s believed to have been dwelling for the previous few months. CNN affiliate SkyTG24 reported {that a} home the place he was hiding was within the coronary heart of town and police discovered luxurious clothes and costly perfumes there. The opposite was a fortified bunker behind a hidden door, in accordance with Reuters, citing native officers.

Additional particulars haven’t but been launched by the police. Nevertheless, they confirmed that Italy’s most needed man repeatedly did his personal grocery buying and neighbors described him as a “pleasant” particular person.

On Thursday, Giovanni Luppino, an olive oil producer who allegedly drove him to the Palermo clinic the place he was arrested, mentioned in courtroom he had “no concept” that the person who had develop into his pal was actually the fugitive mob boss be. Messina Denaro stays in jail awaiting trial for alleged mob collusion. The police additionally dropped investigations into the docs who handled him.

Police stand guard near Matteo Messina Denaro's hiding place in the Sicilian town of Campobello di Mazara on January 17, 2023, the day after his arrest.

Falcone and Borsellino’s assassination was ordered by then-boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina, who was arrested in 1993 and who had put Messina Denaro into the Mafia group Cosa Nostra years earlier. Riina was caught overhearing him expressing his admiration for the then-young felony, particularly that he had no downside killing harmless bystanders as an alternative of simply specializing in vendettas.

Riina died of an unspecified well being downside within the jail wing of a hospital in Parma in 2017, ending his reign for good. He was in a medically induced coma on the time. Mario Francese, a criminal offense journalist who first uncovered Riina in his writing for the Giornale di Sicilia newspaper, was assassinated in 1979. In 2001, the Cosa Nostra was discovered responsible of his homicide, with each Riina and his successor, Bernardo Provenzano, sentenced to life in jail for his or her roles.

Police stand outside the hospital in Palermo, Sicily, where Italy's most wanted mafia boss was arrested on January 16, 2023.

Throughout his time in hiding, Messina Denaro labored carefully beneath Provenzano, who assumed Riina’s function as high boss to the skin world till his personal seize in 2006 in a hideout close to Corleone. Provenzano died of bladder most cancers within the jail wing of a Milan hospital in 2016, making Messina Denaro high boss.

Felia Allum, professor of comparative organized crime and corruption at Britain’s College of Bathtub, mentioned Messina Denaro – who was born in 1962 – was the final of an outdated technology of mafia bosses.

“He represents the final hyperlink between the bellicose and open Cosa Nostra of the early Nineteen Nineties and the quiet, enterprising mafia of the twenty first century,” she mentioned. She additionally emphasizes that the arrest of Messina Denaro is just not the top of the mafia. “I do not see any sense of closure if we do not know who was defending him if he would not cooperate,” she mentioned.

Matteo Messina Denaro, 60, is seen in a police booking photo after his arrest.

Rumors of a deal or “pact” between the state and Cosa Nostra to deliver Messina Denaro out of hiding are price contemplating, in accordance with Roberto Saviano, creator of the best-selling ebook “Gomorrah,” concerning the Neapolitan Camorra crime group.

“It is all the time mentioned that the mafia is the anti-state, that is a mistake. The mafia is allied with a part of the state whereas one other half fights towards it,” he mentioned in his speech Youtube channel. “It was on this energy play that Matteo Messina Denaro was arrested.”

Saviano added in a textual content message change with CNN that there was another excuse Messina Denaro had discovered for 30 years. “They solely began in search of him after 20 years,” he mentioned.

John Dickie, Professor of Italian Research at Britain’s College School London and creator of “Cosa Nostra”, sees it in a different way and tells CNN that as an alternative there may be a lot to counsel that no pact was made, however that Messina Denaro now not holds the facility that he has as soon as, which makes him a much less helpful particular person to guard.

Over the previous decade, billions of euros price of belongings have been seized from his closest allies and members of the family, weakening his energy and his skill to be protected, he mentioned.

“His community has been reduce down through the years and the Mafia has been weakened by arrests,” Dickie mentioned. “The mafia was totally different 30 years in the past, it was a lot stronger.”

By arresting most of Messina Denaro’s household and conserving tabs on the remaining, they have been more likely to have tracked him down, he mentioned. “Its which means is symbolic,” Dickie advised CNN. “When he was in hiding, he was a dwelling poster little one for the facility of Cosa Nostra, however now he did not have that energy.”

An exterior view of the prison in L'Aquila, Italy, where Matteo Messina Denaro is being held after his arrest.

Whether or not it was the results of a pact or really the results of three many years of investigation, the arrest was welcomed by these most injured by the mafia’s lethal hand.

Maria Falcone, sister of the murdered prosecutor, welcomed Messina Denaro’s arrest. “Oh, how I want Giovanni and Paolo may see the applause and raised fingers from the individuals of Palermo after the arrest,” she advised Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. “It is a huge step in the direction of full democracy.”

Giancarlo Caselli, a former anti-mafia prosecutor in Palermo and colleague of the assassinated prosecutors, mentioned in an interview with Radio Popolare that the primary motive Messina Denaro evaded seize for therefore lengthy was the complicity of these defending him.

“Mafiosi do not function in a vacuum. They’re inside, intertwined with a system of relationships, complicity, with out which they might not perform their felony actions, with out which they might not stay on the run,” he mentioned.

“They’re in relationships involving professionals, entrepreneurs, public directors, politicians and people who flank their group and type what is named the mafia bourgeoisie, or grey space.” He mentioned it was this grey space, “the spine of the facility of the Mafia”, with out which the Mafia wouldn’t survive for therefore lengthy.

The Sicilian Cosa Nostra Mafia is the one one in all Italy’s felony organizations to be ruled by a pyramid construction, which means that if the highest boss dies or is imprisoned, a brand new high boss involves energy – though Riina and Provenzano are behind bars have had some affect.

The Neapolitan Camorra, whose factions together with the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria based the Cosa Nostra within the nineteenth century, rule in a horizontal hierarchy with teams tied to households or territories, which means that when a high boss is captured or is killed, the broader group is just not weakened.

Italy's Attorney General Antonino Patti, center, addresses the media at a special bunker court in Caltanissetta, Sicily, January 19, 2023, where a trial for Matteo Messina Denaro was taking place.

The mafiosi of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra who emigrated to america within the late nineteenth century constructed the US Mafia primarily in New York and New Orleans at varied factors in historical past, together with the early twentieth century, mid-Sixties and early of the Nineteen Seventies when the American teams have been at their strongest. Right this moment, whereas all of Italy’s main felony teams have expanded internationally, the Cosa Nostra stays the unique exporter of the so-called “Malavita” underworld.

Messina Denaro now faces a sequence of felony circumstances. Regardless of being tried in absentia on numerous expenses, Italian felony circumstances undergo all three ranges and finish with the Supreme Court docket signing them off. Criminals can solely be tried in absentia within the first diploma, which suggests his circumstances will now undergo attraction and excessive courtroom processes.

He’s represented by his niece Lorenza Guttadauro, daughter of his sister Rosalia, who handed the Italian equal of the bar examination in 2011. The following listening to within the case of anti-mafia prosecutors is scheduled for March 9.

And who’s the brand new boss of bosses? Police haven’t named a suspected successor.

However in Saviano’s opinion, Messina Denaro will reign till his dying, like Riina and Provenzano earlier than him.

“Until he decides to repent, Matteo Messina Denaro, even when he’s imprisoned, will proceed to be the king of Cosa Nostra as a result of nobody is prepared to take a seat on the throne he left half empty,” he mentioned .