Matteo Messina Denaro, a convicted killer and high-ranking mobster with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra who had eluded seize for 3 a long time, died on Monday in a hospital within the central Italian metropolis of L’Aquila, the place he had been serving time in a maximum-security jail. He was 61.
Alessandro Cerella, a lawyer for Mr. Messina Denaro, mentioned the trigger was colon most cancers. Mr. Messina Denaro had been present process remedy for a number of years, and on Friday he fell right into a coma that medical doctors mentioned was irreversible.
Mr. Messina Denaro was arrested in January whereas ready to bear chemotherapy at a non-public clinic in Palermo. He had been utilizing a pretend id, and investigators found that he was being handled for most cancers once they discovered a scrap of paper along with his medical historical past rolled up within the leg of a chair in his mom’s dwelling in Castelvetrano, Sicily.
Since he was not handled underneath his actual identify, they used nationwide well being service information to determine sufferers with comparable situations and slim it down.
Regardless of working within the shadows, Mr. Messina Denaro had remained on the prime of Italy’s checklist of most wished fugitives for many years. His skill to confound investigators on a dogged, if irritating, mission to seek out him added to his aura of invincibility.
“La Cattura” (“The Seize”), a not too long ago printed guide about looking him down written by Maurizio de Lucia, the chief prosecutor in Palermo, calls Mr. Messina Denaro “one among Italy’s biggest mysteries.” He was, Mr. de Lucia wrote, “the mobster who ferried Sicily’s Cosa Nostra into a brand new period, inside a legal system that unites many segments.”
In 2020, Mr. Messina Denaro was convicted in absentia for his function within the high-profile murders of two of Italy’s prime anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, in 1992, and for lethal bombings the following 12 months in Milan, Rome and Florence that prosecutors consider have been a part of a Cosa Nostra technique towards the state.
He additionally obtained a life sentence for his involvement within the kidnapping and dying of the 12-year-old son of a Mafia turncoat after the boy was strangled and his physique was dissolved in acid, and within the dying of a police officer.
Lirio Abbate, an investigative journalist, has additionally written a guide about Mr. Messina Denaro. In that guide, “U Siccu,” printed 2020, Mr. Abbate mentioned that Mr. Messina Denaro had confided in a good friend that he might make “a cemetery” out of all of the individuals he had killed or ordered killed.
What little is understood about Mr. Messina Denaro comes by means of the testimony of Mafia turncoats and arrested mobsters, in addition to court docket information, police reviews and rumour. Earlier than his arrest, investigators had little to go on: a 1988 recording of his testimony a couple of homicide and a handful of images of him as a younger man.
Nicknamed U Siccu (Sicilian for slender), Mr. Messina Denaro was mentioned to have had a penchant for quick luxurious automobiles that he couldn’t bask in for worry of being caught. In accordance with one investigator, he was carrying a watch valued at over 30,000 euros (about $32,000) when he was arrested. The police additionally discovered designer garments and costly perfumes in his final hide-out, an condo in southwestern Sicily the place Mr. Messina Denaro had been dwelling for a number of years underneath an assumed identify.
He informed the investigators who caught him that in recent times he had lived largely within the open, “a tree within the midst of a forest,” considering that he can be much less prone to be caught. If anybody knew that he was Italy’s most wished mob boss, that they had not mentioned a phrase to the authorities.
He was mentioned to be a “fimminaru,” or playboy, and books and articles about him recounted his conquests in Italy and overseas. Some girls paid a excessive worth, touchdown in jail for abetting his life as a fugitive. Mr. Abbate famous in his guide that Mr. Messina Denaro’s philandering had damaged with the “household values of the standard Mafia.”
He’s thought to have traveled extensively throughout his years on the run, establishing connections with legal teams in Europe and the Americas. “He was in all places and nowhere,” Attilio Bolzoni, a seasoned Mafia reporter, wrote after the arrest. “A ghost.”
Mr. Messina Denaro had taken his place on the Cosa Nostra desk when his father, who additionally had Mafia affiliations, turned a fugitive after his personal authorized troubles. In 1991, the son attended an notorious assembly at which prosecutors consider the Sicilian Mafia households determined to wage struggle towards the central authorities by pulling off the high-profile assassinations and bombings of the early Nineties.
His rise inside the echelons of organized crime was facilitated by his affiliation with the Corleonesi crime household, which was headed by Salvatore (Toto) Riina, the so-called Boss of all Bosses, who is alleged to have thought of him like a son.
When a Mafia turncoat related Mr. Messina Denaro to a number of murders in 1993, he went underground. However he maintained a agency maintain over his turf, the western Sicilian province of Trapani, the place he acquired belongings in authorized companies together with journey companies, supermarkets and alternative-energy firms.
He communicated with associates by means of letters and handwritten messages that he averted writing personally and demanded be burned as soon as learn. He was protected, specialists mentioned, by a big community of associates who feared and revered him, in addition to locals who appeared the opposite method.
A whole bunch of people that helped him elude seize or benefited from his monetary dealings have been jailed over time, together with buddies, members of the family and prime enterprise associates. Practically 10 billion euros of his in belongings and shares in varied firms and companies that have been seized over time have been simply “the tip of the iceberg,” in response to Mr. de Lucia.
Piero Grasso, a onetime nationwide anti-Mafia prosecutor, mentioned that Mr. Messina Denaro was “a lot liked, as a result of he was thought of a benefactor in his territories” — a dynamic that helps clarify why he was in a position to keep underneath cowl for thus lengthy.
By the point he was arrested, he had accrued a number of life sentences. His last months have been spent in jail, in court docket and receiving remedy for most cancers. He had been scheduled to attend a listening to for one trial this month.
Mr. Messina Denaro was born on April 26, 1962, in Castelvetrano, a rural city in western Sicily, the fourth of six kids. His father, Francesco Messina Denaro, referred to as “don Ciccio,” was a neighborhood crime household boss who died in 1998 whereas a fugitive. His mom, Lorenza Santangelo, was a homemaker.
He grew up on an property belonging to a rich native household and attended a technical faculty within the space however didn’t end highschool, in response to Mr. de Lucia’s guide.
Info on survivors was not instantly out there.
Mr. de Lucia wrote that throughout the interrogations after his arrest, Mr. Messina Denaro had continued to disclaim being a part of the Mafia or taking part in its killings.
But his violent streak started early.
“He was already capturing at 14,” Mr. Abbate wrote. “Killing at 18. At 31, he was putting bombs within the north. That is what we find out about him, a boy with plain legal abilities.”
Mr. Messina Denaro maintained his innocence till the top, nonetheless; in a single interrogation in February, he described himself as a “stateless farmer.” “I used to work within the countryside,” he mentioned, complaining that he had misplaced his residence and his property. “I had belongings, however you took all of them away.”
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