The Hunt for “The Last Godfather” – The Capture of Matteo Messina Denaro After 30 Years as Italy’s Most Wanted Mafia Boss

   At 9 o’clock on January 16, 2023, there was a thin winter rain in the port city of Palermo in the northwest of Sicily, Italy. At a street corner, people in a hurry did not notice the few policemen.
   At a private clinic around the corner, several patients were seen. Suddenly, the police approached an elderly man wearing a white cap and a brown fur jacket.
   The two sides looked at each other for a few seconds, and the man said: “You know who I am. I am Matteo Messina Denaro.” He stretched out his hands expressionlessly, waiting for the cold handcuffs to fall on his wrists superior.
   When Denaro was escorted out of the clinic by the police, many onlookers had already gathered on the street corner. There were cheers in the rain: “They are finally finished.”
  ”He is the one we want to catch
   .” The 61-year-old Denaro is one of the “godfathers” of the notorious Italian mafia.
   He was carrying multiple murder cases, absconded for 30 years, was sentenced to two life sentences in absentia, but never spent a day in prison, and was the only heavyweight leader of the mafia gang “Our Cause” who was not captured.
   The prototype of the Italian mafia gang described in the classic Hollywood gangster film “The Godfather” is “Our Cause”. As a result, Denaro was known as “the last godfather”. In the words of British criminologist Sergi, Denaro is “the last most stubborn and ‘pure’ Sicilian mafia in existence”.
   Years ago, Italian police put Denaro on the world’s most wanted list. He has been on the “list” of the world’s top ten most wanted criminals all year round, and has never fallen out of the top three. To some extent, this made the legend about him more and more mysterious in the underworld.
   Some people say that Denaro always wore a human skin mask during his escape, so those who saw him could not recognize him. It was also said that in order to evade the police and his enemies, Denaro had quietly removed the fingerprints of ten fingers.
   An Italian professor who teaches criminal procedure law said: “Denaro lived in the environment of being wanted all year round, had to be extremely cautious, and always calculated every action carefully.”
   Thirty years later, Denaro is still haunted. But the police were not discouraged. They analyzed that at this time, Denaro had entered his sixtieth year. No matter how cunning he was, he would always suffer from physical ailments and always need to seek medical advice.
   What happened next confirmed the police’s judgment.
   Police have long been listening to the calls of Denaro’s relatives. They found that the relatives often talked about “cancer patients” and “cancer surgery,” but not who had cancer. During the monitoring of Denaro’s associates, the police found that these people had searched the Internet for information about Crohn’s disease and cancer. Crohn’s disease is a precancerous lesion of colorectal cancer. It looks benign, but it will entangle the patient for life, recurrent and difficult to cure.
   Comparing the two clues, the police guessed that Denaro probably had cancer and was trying to treat it. The “fish” lurking at the bottom of the water bubbled up, and the police began to cast nets.
   They collected the data of all male cancer patients born in Sicily in 1962, combined with the database of the Italian medical insurance system, screened and excluded potential targets one by one, and started monitoring suspicious objects. As the search narrowed, the police finally found a loophole in a private clinic in Palermo.
   The clinic had a patient named André Bonafide, the nephew of a deceased mafia boss. Bonafide has had two operations for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 and has undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
   Upon further investigation, the police found that on a certain day in 2022, Bonafide appeared in two places at the same time. While one Bonafide was undergoing surgery at a hospital, another Bonafide was out walking his dog.
   After learning that Bonafide had made an appointment for chemotherapy on January 16, 2023, the police immediately sent someone to ambush near the private clinic.
   On the same day, after arriving at the clinic, Denaro, whose pseudonym was Bonafide, was arranged for a nucleic acid test. The cunning he soon realized that he was being followed and tried to sneak out of the clinic. However, all places where you can leave the clinic are guarded by the police.
   At this moment, Denaro may have realized that it is only a matter of time before he is arrested. He gave up running away and chose to surrender.
   In fact, until the arrest, the police did not know what Denaro looked like. All they have is a simulated image of an old Denaro based on old photos from decades ago combined with the latest technology.
   However, the commander of the special forces of the Italian National Security Police, Lucho Archidiacono, said, “As soon as we saw him (Denaro), we were immediately convinced that he was the one we wanted to arrest.”
  ”The people I kill can fill a cemetery”
   On the map of Italy, Sicily is like a ball with the tip of the “boot”. This is both a resort with a paradise view and the birthplace of the Mafia.
   “Our Cause” originated in the early 19th century and is the earliest Mafia organization established in Italy. At first, it played the banner of justice for the local people. As its power grew, its composition and nature began to change.
   As described in the opening line of “The Godfather” “Behind the great wealth, there is evil hidden”, “our business” has amassed a lot of wealth through underworld businesses such as drug trafficking, smuggling, and human trafficking. For “ignorant” congressmen, journalists, and citizens, the mafia will take bloody revenge, and the perpetrators are rarely punished.
   In the western part of Palermo, where Our Cause takes hold, people refuse to talk about Denaro. Known for his cruelty, he was called “The Devil” and his minions were everywhere in the city.
   Italian media reported that Denaro was “polite and soft-spoken” when he was arrested, well-dressed and wearing a designer watch worth 35,000 euros (about 250,000 yuan).
   He is said to be an aficionado of luxury brands and, years ago, appeared on the cover of an Italian magazine in a chic outfit that looked like a rock star. The police found many perfume bottles, multiple pairs of glasses and multiple pieces of luxury brand clothing in the apartment where he was hiding.
   Such a “personal design” seems to be far from the title of “devil”, but it still cannot cover up the crimes committed by Denaro.
   Denaro was born in Castelvetrano, a small town in western Sicily, in 1962. His father, Don Cicho, was the leader of a local mafia gang.
   Because he was mixed with the Mafia since he was a child, Denaro learned to use a gun at the age of 14, knew how to kill people and dispose of corpses. At 18, he committed his first murder. Years later, he bragged to those around him: “The people I kill can fill a cemetery.”
   Italian journalist Pugatori said: “Denaro committed some of the most violent and cruel crimes in Italian history.” He Most of the crimes referred to occurred in the 1990s, when Palermo was at its most chaotic and “dead people were seen on the streets every day”.
   Prosecutor Falco prosecuted a number of cases involving the mafia that year, known as “sweeping black flags.” Denaro and others regarded him as a thorn in their side.
   On May 23, 1992, Denaro learned that Falco was going to the airport to pick up his wife home, so he arranged for several of his men to bury 800 kilograms of TNT explosives on the only way to the airport. When Falco’s convoy came within range of the blast, Denaro’s men detonated the explosives remotely. The huge impact lifted the whole road, the Falco couple and several bodyguards were killed, and more than 20 pedestrians were injured.
   Two months after Falco’s murder, his partner, prosecutor Borsellino, was also killed by a car bomb by the Mafia.
   The two bombings caused great shock in Italy. People took to the streets to demonstrate, demanding that the government severely punish the Mafia. Soon, the Italian authorities passed the “Anti-Mafia Act”, established the Anti-Mafia Investigation Bureau, and launched a nationwide war against the Mafia. The court also tried Denaro in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison.
   Denaro’s arrogance was not suppressed. He launched a series of revenge actions. In 1993, he ordered several bomb attacks in Rome, Florence and other major cities, killing 10 people and injuring nearly a hundred others.
   The police seized Sandino Di Matteo, one of Denaro’s men, who had been involved in the Falco case. In order to save his life, Di Matteo turned into a tainted witness, identifying the crimes of Denaro and his accomplices. Almost all the mafia members involved in the case were arrested.
   The red-eyed Denaro decided to punish the “traitor” Di Matteo. In November 1993, he ordered the kidnapping of Di Matteo’s 12-year-old son, Giuseppe, and held him for 26 months. During this period, Giuseppe was tortured, and Denaro also asked people to take pictures of the children’s injuries and send them to Di Matteo.
   In January 1996, a desperate Di Matteo offered to negotiate with Denaro to save his son. However, what he waited for was bad news. Just a few days earlier, Giuseppe had been strangled to death, and his body was thrown into a barrel of strong acid, leaving almost no bones. The family couldn’t even bury the child properly.
  Knowing that the Italian authorities would not let him go, Denaro, who was “a heavy blow to organized crime”
   and committed many murders, started his escape journey in 1993 and started a 30-year “cat catch” with the police. mouse” trick.
   Over the years, hundreds of police officers have been responsible for tracking and arresting Denaro. In order to find out his hiding place, the police arrested and monitored his relatives, accomplices, and old friends, totaling hundreds of people. The police searched a large number of residences and shops in Sicily, drilled into various caves and fortifications, but found nothing.
   Ironically, while on the run, Denaro continued to effectively command his Mafia family.
   In 1996, police found dozens of suspicious notes in the boot of a car. After analysis, the police determined that these notes were coded letters for communication between members of the Mafia.
   In 2015, someone found some small notes under a rock on a farm in Sicily, and the police confirmed that they were orders from Denaro to his subordinates.
   Denaro would also sneak up on the children of Mafia members and leave notes on them.
   A police officer involved in the Denaro case explained: “In order not to be exposed, the mafia boss must turn away from modern technology, return to an almost primitive way of life, return to basic language communication, and create a complex set of codes. , communicate with his allies.”
   However, in recent years, the police have arrested a large number of Denaro’s accomplices and seized his huge assets, which has tightened his living space to a certain extent. The current power of the Sicilian Mafia is not as good as its “peers” in other parts of Italy, which created the conditions for Denaro’s final arrest.
   With Denaro’s generation of mafia leaders hiding, dying, and shutting down, the influence of the mafia is not as good as before. A related person who has dealt with the mafia for many years said: “Denaro is the last godfather of the most murderous generation of the mafia. After he went into hiding, ‘Our Cause’ completely changed its style and became A more silent, ‘invisible’ organization that is almost ‘overwhelmed’.”
   Changes within the Mafia have also accelerated its decline.
   Members of the “Our Cause” gang no longer attach importance to the so-called “honor, faith, and loyalty” and no longer strictly abide by the “gang rules.” In 2012, a video of “Our Cause” members infighting was exposed. A young man threatened his elderly accomplice that he would be “thrown out” if he did not cooperate.
   Li Hao has studied Italian culture. He told reporters that in the past, the Italian mafia relied on wielding knives and guns and fighting in the streets to seize territory, and the government was powerless to govern. Today, the government has stepped up its crackdown, and the mafia has also realized that violence alone cannot solve the problem, and has begun to use other means to operate black industries.
   According to media reports, the illegal disposal of toxic waste has gradually become a way for the Italian mafia to make money. Almost every week, mafioso members drive truckloads of old tires, asbestos, battery acid and chemical sludge to suburban landfills, dumping them in pre-dug pits. The mafia can make hundreds of billions of euros in illegal income every year.
   Although Denaro’s reputation has declined, his arrest has caused a stir in Italy. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni flew to Sicily immediately after hearing the news, congratulated those who participated in the arrest operation, and praised it as “a heavy blow to organized crime”.
   Today’s Sicily seems to be calm, but people familiar with the situation say that the Mafia is watching. Denaro is being held in a high-security prison in L’Aquila. He still respects the “principle of silence” of the Mafia and refuses to confess. But whether he will ultimately choose to cooperate with the government to reduce his sentence remains to be seen.
   In addition, whether Denaro has received asylum from political figures or other forces during his long-term fugitive career is also what Italian prosecutors are planning to investigate.
   Some analysts said that the Italian political arena has undergone a major reshuffle not long ago. At such times in the past, the mafia would also make internal adjustments and look for new umbrellas. As Antonio, the chief prosecutor of Sicily, said, the mafia is a “cancer parasitic in Italian politics” and they will not admit defeat easily.

error: Content is protected !!