Italy police catch serial fugitive on ‘most wanted’ list

Italian police Saturday caught serial jailbreaker Graziano Mesina, who was on the country's top eight most dangerous fugitives list, the interior ministry said.

An Italian police car pictured in a park.
Mesina, who has already spent over 40 years behind bars, is known for his escapes. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

The 79-year old, who is famous in Italy for multiple escapes from prison, has to serve a 24-year sentence for international drug trafficking, according to Italian media reports.

Police captured him in a house in the hillside town of Desulo in Sardinia, not far from Orgosolo in the centre of the Italian island, where he grew up, the last of 11 children, born to a Sardinian shepherd.

Mesina had skipped bail last year.

He has served over 40 years in jail for attempted murder and a kidnapping spree, and is known in Italy for his escapes — jumping from a moving train during a transfer on one occasion and disguising himself as a priest on another, media reports said.

In 1970, he reportedly watched his football team Cagliari play, while dressed as a woman.

Mesina would later “reform”, according to the Repubblica daily, and play a key role in the release of a kidnapped child, Farouk Kassam. That prompted Italy’s then-president to grant him a pardon.

He worked for a while as a tour guide. But in 2013 he was arrested again on charges of setting up an international drug trafficking network and his pardon was later revoked.

Mesina’s lawyers told ANSA news agency he had spent “a difficult year” on the run, during which both his sisters had died of coronavirus.

Asked why he escaped last year, he told his lawyers: “I have already spent too long in jail, over 45 years, and the idea of going back in to die scares me”.

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Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.