Matteo Messina Denaro, convicted leader of Italy’s notorious Cosa Nostra Mafia, was arrested Monday by armed police at a private clinic in Palermo, where he was receiving cancer treatment. Denaro has been a fugitive in his country since 1993, when Italy began to crack down on Sicilian Mafia leaders following the car bombings of two prosecutors in 1992.
Denaro, now 60 years old, remained in control of Cosa Nostra operations near the city of Trapani while in hiding. He had been using the alias name Andrea Bonafede, and remained undetected even whilst travelling outside of the country a few years ago for surgery in France.
An Arrest Decades in the Making
Details about how police found Denaro are still unknown to the public. Police say that he confirmed his identity when their officers approached him at the clinic. More than 100 officers and armed forces personnel were present for the arrest.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni flew to Sicily to congratulate police and show the significance of this arrest.
“It is a day of celebration when we can tell our children that the mafia can be beaten,” said Meloni. “We have not won the war, we have not defeated the mafia but this battle was a key battle to win, and it is a heavy blow to organized crime.”
Una bella giornata per l’Italia tutta. La Nazione è orgogliosa di voi. pic.twitter.com/Vrl0LREeVz
— Giorgia Meloni (@GiorgiaMeloni) January 16, 2023
Denaro’s Deadly Criminal Career
The list of brutal crimes attributed to Denaro is long and disturbing. Denaro once claimed that his list of victims could “fill a cemetery”.
In addition to the bombings that killed Italian prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, he is accused of other bombings in Florence, Milan, and Rome that killed a collective 10 people. Italian courts convicted him of orchestrating the 1993 kidnapping and murder of 12 year old Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of a former Mafia member and key witness against Cosa Nostra.
Other criminal operations attributed to Denaro include racketeering, waste dumping, drug trafficking, and money laundering. He will serve multiple life sentences in prison.
Written by Seth Herlinger
Associated Press: Italy: No 1 wanted Mafia boss held after 30 years on the run
BBC News: Italy’s most-wanted Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro arrested in Sicily
Reuters: Years of cat-and-mouse end as top mafioso cornered in Italian clinic
Top and featured image by Allions, courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License