OAN Shannon Kelland
UPDATED 2:26 PM PT – Monday, January 16, 2023
Matteo Messina Denaro, Italy’s most wanted mafia boss, was arrested on Monday by armed police at a private hospital in Sicily, after 30 years of being on the run.
Messina Denaro was placed on Italy’s wanted list in 1993 and is a convicted murderer who eluded authorities for decades and is believed to be the leader of the Cosa Nostra organized crime group.
The man nicknamed “Diabolik” and “‘U Siccu” (The Skinny One), had been sentenced in absentia to a life sentence due to his role in the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
He also faced further sentencing due to involvement in the bomb attacks in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993. The bombing killed 10 people and he is also accused with taking part in numerous other murders in the 1990’s by the prosecution.
Italian prosecutors accused the mobster with aiding the kidnapping of 12-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo in 1993. It is claimed the kidnapping was an attempt to dissuade the boy’s father from giving evidence against the mafia. The boy was held captive for two years, then he was strangled and dissolved in acid.
The 60-year-old was apprehended at a private hospital in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, by Italy’s Carabinieri police division.
Messina Denaro was taken away from the “La Maddalena” hospital by two uniformed Carabinieri police in a black minivan. He was at the hospital being treated for cancer and had an operation last year followed by a series of appointments under a false name.
A second man was arrested at the scene, who had driven Messina Denaro to the hospital and was accused of aiding a fugitive.
Magistrate Paolo Guido, who was in charge of investigations into Messina Denaro, claimed dismantling his network of protectors was important before making the arrest.
An expert on the mafia at the University of Essex, Anna Sergi, spoke on how the arrest was a historic occasion.
“Messina Denaro was the last one standing of maybe five or six people who were at the top of Cosa Nostra when it was at the top of its powers. It means we won’t have anything like this again, this effectively marks the end of Cosa Nostra the way we knew it,” she said.
Experts suggested that Cosa Nostra has been dethroned by the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, as the most influential organized crime group in Italy.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni congratulated police chiefs on the “great victory” and for holding a strong front against the mafia on their way to dismantling organized crime.
“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,” she said.
Meloni also mentions that the arrest fell on the anniversary of another Cosa Nostra mob boss Salvatore Riina, known as Totò ‘u Curtu.
The organization called Cosa Nostra still exists participating in money laundering and extortion. Expert Sergi claimed it is “shadow of its former self” because it lacks the political influence and domination of the drugs trade that defined it 30 years ago.
Mafioso Messina Denaro, is from the town of Castelvetrano near Trapani in western Sicily, the son of a mafia boss.
Last year police warned in that despite his low profile, Messina Denaro could still give commands to organized crime groups around the city of Trapani.
Before he was on the run, he was known for driving expensive cars and wearing finely tailored suits and Rolex watches.
Notorious mobster was also the subject of Netflix’s “World’s Most Wanted” series.
This arrest was just the latest in a string of high-profile arrests of mafia bosses.
Last year Rocco Morabito, the second most-wanted fugitive of the in Italy and a leader of the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia group, was arrested in Brazil following 28 years on the run and was extradited to Rome.
Cosa Nostra boss, Bernardo Provenzano was arrested in 2006, who was nicknamed as the “Capo di Capi,” translation chief of chiefs. Provenzano’s arrest came after a 43-year manhunt.