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Matteo Messina Denaro, Fugitive Mob Boss, Arrested in Sicily

by Derick SullivanJanuary 17, 2023


After 30 years on the run, Matteo Messina Denaro, a Sicilian Cosa Nostra boss and Italy's most wanted man, has been arrested. In the end, suffering from cancer did him in — the carabinieri found him at the Palermo clinic where he was undergoing treatment.



Handout | Getty Images

Citing the clinic's director, Corriere Della Sera reported that Messina Denaro tried unsuccessfully to escape law enforcement, but investigators later said he did not resist arrest. In fact, they reported that he immediately identified himself as the person they were looking for. The carabinieri say they found a suspect in good condition, wearing a $38,000 Franck Muller watch. Messina Denaro was reportedly going by "Andrea Bonafede" and carrying identification in that name.

Matteo Messina Denaro has long been considered one of the Sicilian Mafia's most influential and dangerous members. He became boss of the powerful Mafia family in Trapani, Sicily, after the arrest of his uncle, Salvatore "Toto" Riina, in 1993. Denaro's reign over the family has been notable for his brutality and involvement in various criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, and murder.

Denaro had been on the run since 1993. In a statement, Italy's chief of police, Lamberto Giannini, said the mafia don's arrest was "a victory for all the police forces that have worked together over these long years to bring the dangerous fugitive to justice."

Italy's Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, tweeted that the arrest was a "great victory for the state, which demonstrates that it does not give up in the face of the Mafia."

CNN reported that Messina Denaro's nickname was Diabolik – possibly after an Italian comic book character known as a Batman-style antihero — and he was widely considered a successor of Bernardo Provenzano, a capo arrested near Corleone, Sicily, in 2006.

Crime, however, has long run in the family. His father was a mob boss, and his brother and sister have been imprisoned for mafia-related crimes.

Whatever charges Matteo Messina Denaro faces now that he's under arrest, he has already been sentenced to life in prison. He was sentenced in absentia three years ago for taking part in murdering a pair of anti-mafia prosecutors in 1992 and bombings that killed ten the following year.



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