Matteo Messina Denaro was one of Italy’s most wanted criminals. He had been on the run for almost 30 years and had long been known as “the ghost”. “The boss of the bosses” of the Sicilian mafia was arrested yesterday in a private clinic in the heart of Palermo, where he had apparently been treated for a year for a tumor.
Messina Denaro was operated on and treated with chemotherapy in the specialist oncology clinic under the false name “Andre Bonafede”. “We had no idea we were treating Messina Denaro,” said a doctor. The mafia boss first tried to flee, but he did not resist when he was arrested.
The 60-year-old is considered the supreme godfather of Cosa Nostra in Sicily and is said to be partly responsible for the murders of judges and mafia hunters Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for the 1992 crime and other attacks. But Denaro also had the economy firmly under control: Through straw men, he owned supermarket chains, hotels, bars and a cement factory. He also produced olive oil and cheese, for which he owned a lot of agricultural land. Messina Denaro’s fortune was once estimated at more than ten billion euros, making him one of the richest Italians.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke of a “great success for the state, which shows that it has never been defeated by the mafia”. However, observers fear that the Sicilian mafia is now being rearranged.
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