Italy's most-wanted mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was arrested in Sicily, Italy, on Monday from a hospital after being on the run for more than 30 years. Dubbed 'The Godfather', Messina Denaro is alleged to be the boss of the notorious Cosa Nostra mafia. He was tried and sentenced to life in jail in absentia in 2002 over numerous murders.
According to reports, Messina Denaro's arrest was carried out with the assistance of more than 100 military personnel. In a video that has been circulating in Italian media, Messina Denaro is seen being dragged away from the private clinic by armed policemen as people cheer the cops from the street.
End of His Hiding
Messina Denaro, 60, who had a 12-year-old kid strangled and his body dissolved in acid, was arrested by Italian police at the Maddalena private clinic in Palermo, Sicily, where he had gone for a cancer check.
The Mafia boss, who hasn't been seen in public in three decades, was captured on camera shortly after his arrest sitting in a police van while donning his signature tinted spectacles, a white skull hat, and a brown leather shearling jacket. Police arrested him and quickly took him to a secret location.
Messina Denaro is believed to have assumed the title of "boss of bosses" following the death of Salvatore "The Beast" Riina in November 2022. Messina Denaro was also the third and final high-level mafia fugitive to escape capture.
Locals in Palermo came out to congratulate and shake hands with the Italian paramilitary police personnel engaged in the operation as word of his arrest circulated around the city.
When Messina Denaro, who had orchestrated years of terror in Italy, was finally apprehended, the locals were observed cheering and wiping away tears in a wave of relief.
Messina Denaro, who went by the name Andrea Bonafede (which translates to "Goodfaith"), attempted to flee the private clinic and hide but was apprehended by the police.
The arrest was praised by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who said the arrest was "a great victory for the state that shows it never gives up in the face of the mafia"
"It is a victory for all the police forces that have worked together over these long years to bring the dangerous fugitive to justice," Italy's Chief of Police, Lamberto Giannini, said in a statement congratulating the Carabinieri – Italy's military police – and the Palermo Public Prosecutor's Office.
End of the Road
Messina Denaro has been a fugitive since 1993 and was considered by Europol one of the most wanted men in Europe. Messina Denaro is awaiting multiple life sentences. He received a life sentence in absentia for his involvement in the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone in 1992.
Besides, he is also accused of the deadly 1993 bomb attacks in Milan, Florence and Rome, and the kidnapping, torture and killing of the 12-year-old son of a mafioso turned state witness.
Giuseppe Di Matteo, 12, was abducted in 1993 as part of a plot by Messina Denaro to intimidate his father into withholding information about the mafia, according to the prosecution. The boy was imprisoned for two years before being killed by being strangled and having his body dissolved in acid.
The sole image that was available of Messina Denaro was from the early 1990s, despite the fact that he was the most wanted man in Italy at the time. In 2014, an informant was used to help build a new e-fit.
Police reported in September 2022 that despite his long disappearance Messina Denaro was still in a position to provide orders regarding the management of the mafia in the vicinity of Trapani, a city in western Sicily that served as his regional stronghold.
Police learned in 2015 that he was using the Pizzini technique, which involved leaving tiny, folded paper notes under a rock at a Sicilian farm, to communicate with his closest associates.
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, according to many informers and prosecutors.
Over the years, Italian investigators have frequently come close to arresting Messina Denaro by keeping an eye on people closest to him. As a result, his sister Patrizia and numerous other of his accomplices were detained in 2013. Additionally, Messina Denaro's lucrative companies were seized by the police, further isolating him.
Messina Denaro had stood for the state's incapacity to penetrate the top levels of organized criminal syndicates for years. His capture will be an unexpected symbol of hope that the mafia can be destroyed in the south of the nation, where the state is viewed as mainly absent and useless.