Mafia boss Messina Denaro caught after 30 years on the run

Italy’s most wanted mafia boss was arrested on January 16 after evading police for 30 years.

Nathan Montoya, Editor of News

Matteo Messina Denaro earned his title of the country’s most wanted man by being the leader of the Cosa nostra in the western Sicilian province of Trapani, but his power extended further to the capital of Sicily, Palermo, where he was arrested. The Cosa Nostra is the Sicilian Mafia that dates back to what is assumed to be the 19th century and is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure, code of conduct, and honor in order to present themselves to the public under a common brand. Denaro is accused of being a ruthless assassin for the mafia, which that violence fuelled the reputation of the Cosa nostra Mafia, and is said that he boasted that the amount of people he killed is enough to fill a cemetery.

Born on April 26, 1962, in Castelvetrano in southwest Sicily, Messina Denaro was no stranger to the organized crime scene, growing up in the heart of it. His first run-ins with the law began in 1989 when he took part in a bloody struggle between two clans,  he was accused that year of murdering a hotel owner, and in 1992 was part of a mob group, Toto Riina was sent to Rome to try and kill anti-mafia judge, Giovanni Falcone. Falcone was murdered in a car bombing near Palermo on May 23, 1992, by the group. In July of the same year, he allegedly took part in the murder of the head of the rival Alcamo clan, Vincenzo Milazzo, who was accused of strangling his intimate partner who was three months pregnant. Gruesomely enough, the two bodies were buried in the countryside. After January of 1993, Denaro continued his strategy of all-out-brutality, providing logistical support for bombings in Florence, Milan, and Rome. He killed 10 people and wounded about 100. His most gruesome incident was where he was accused of being one of the organizers of the kidnapping of Giuseppe Di Matteo, whose father had given testimony about the murder of Falcone. Notoriously, Matteo was held for 779 days before eventually being strangled and having his body dissolved in acid.

He would disappear in the middle of 1993, beginning his 30 years on the run of accusations of his crimes, and in 2000 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. While being a wanted man, Denaro would manage his affairs by communicating through the Pizzini system, where messages were left on tiny bits of paper. He had many sources of revenue from drug trafficking to gambling, both in Italy and abroad. However, he was captured and the head of the police force special operations squad in Palermo, Carabinieri General Pasquale Angelosanto said that Denaro’s health would help investigators zero in on him, being taken into custody while at a medical center. It is said that during his arrest he did not resist at all.