Matteo Messina Denaro, the “last godfather” of the Sicilian mafia who hid from justice for 30 years, has died after a long illness, Italian media reported. The boss of the infamous Cosa Nostra mafia was caught by the police in January this year while he was on his way to one of the most prestigious clinics in Palermo, where he was supposed to undergo chemotherapy.
Sixty-one-year-old Messina Denaro was treated at a prison hospital in L’Aquila in central Italy after his arrest. Already on Saturday night, the ANSA agency wrote that the mafia boss is in a coma. Doctors gave him no hope and weaned him off artificial nutrition, Reuters reported.
The Italian media is calling Messina Denaro the last big boss of the Sicilian mafia. He took over the leadership of Cosa Nostra after the arrest of the previous heads of the organization, Bernardo Provenzano in 2006 and Salvatore Lo Piccolo a year later.
Messina Denaro has already been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for his involvement in the assassination of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. He also received a life sentence for the murder of ten people in the 1993 bombings in Florence, Rome and Milan.
Prosecutors also indicted him in connection with many other murders attributed to the Italian mafia. He is also facing charges for the alleged abduction of an eleven-year-old boy, Giuseppe Di Matteo, which was supposed to have happened 30 years ago. The boy, whose father provided police with information from inside the mafia, was held captive for two years before being strangled and his body dissolved in acid, according to SwissInfo.
Catching the Messina Denarius
According to the AGI agency, the mafia boss was detained by the police at a hospital in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, where he had come for a medical examination.
Messina Denaro disappeared without a trace in the summer of 1993 and has been reported to have been spotted everywhere from Venezuela to the Netherlands, the BBC wrote.
In the end, however, he was caught directly in Sicily thanks to wiretapping of his family, which revealed that the mobster was being treated for cancer. By comparing the diagnosis and the age of the mobster, the police discovered that he was visiting the Palermo clinic under a false name. It is “a great victory for the state, which proves that it does not give up in the face of the mafia”, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni commented on the arrest at the beginning of the year.
The secrets of the mafia died with him
The mobster topped Italy’s “most wanted criminals” list. Until his capture, in which more than 100 police officers participated, he was among the ten most wanted criminals in the world.
Messina Denaro was born in 1962 in Trapani, Sicily. He has been in the criminal environment since childhood – his father was also the head of Cosa Nostra. Messina Denaro took after his father and committed his first murder at the age of 18, according to police. Later he himself proclaimed that he “managed to fill the whole cemetery”.
The state of the Italian mafia
Two big names in less than a month. Police officers in Italy and France caught mobsters from notorious clans. But both belong to an era that is long gone. The Mafia no longer enjoys public murders so much, although it remains a challenge for Italy.
Messina Denaro thrived in the family business and built an illegal empire worth several billion euros, The Guardian reported. According to the police, the mob boss oversaw extortion, illegal waste dumps, money laundering and drug trafficking.
“It represents the last link between the aggressive and visible Cosa Nostra of the early 1990s and the quiet, business mafia of the 21st century,” Felia Allum, who studies organized crime and corruption at Britain’s University of Bath, told CNN.
Like other Sicilian mob bosses, Messina Denaro has always refused to cooperate with the authorities in uncovering the crimes of Cosa Nostra. According to prosecutors, he held the key to some of the most brutal murders committed by the Sicilian mafia, including the attacks that killed Judges Falcone and Borsellino.