Messina Denaro: Italian police discover mafia boss’s hideout

Matteo Messina Denaro had been hiding in an apartment in a small town in Sicily before his arrest this week after three decades on the run, it emerged on Tuesday.

Italian Carabinieri in front of the Maddalena private clinic in Palermo on January 16, 2023, where Italy's top wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, was found.
Italian Carabinieri in front of the Maddalena private clinic in Palermo on January 16, 2023, where mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was found. Photo by Alessandro FUCARINI / AFP.

Police officers were seen guarding the road leading to the unremarkable yellow-painted building in Campobello di Mazara, just up the road from Messina Denaro’s hometown of Castelvetrano in western Sicily.

Searches found no weapons but perfumes and luxury clothing, according to media reports. Police declined to comment to AFP.

Messina Denaro, 60, was arrested on Monday at the private La Maddalena health clinic in Palermo, where he had an appointment for treatment for colon cancer, under a false name.

A powerful boss of the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia that inspired the hit ‘Godfather’ movies, he had not been seen in public since 1993.

But prosecutors and anti-mafia investigators said he remained an active boss for the Trapani region, a point of reference even beyond his territory, including in the resolution of disputes and top Mafia appointments.

READ ALSO: PROFILE: Ruthless Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro’s reign of terror

Prosecutors said he was not armed when he was arrested and appeared in good health, dressed well with luxury accessories including a watch officials valued at up to 35,000 euros.

He “enjoyed high-level protection and the investigations are now focused on that protection”, Palermo prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia told reporters on Monday.

Investigators had in years past claimed Messina Denaro was based in Sicily but travelled widely, to mainland Italy and overseas. However, prosecutors declined to give further details on Monday.

Messina Denaro was one of the mob’s most brutal bosses, whose convictions included a life sentence given in absentia in 2020 for the 1992 murder of anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.

But De Lucia warned with his arrest “obviously the mafia is not defeated, and the biggest mistake to make would be to think that the game is over”.

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Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro ‘in a coma’

Notorious Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, captured in January after three decades on the run, is in a coma in hospital and no longer being fed, media reports said Saturday.

Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro 'in a coma'

The 61-year-old has been suffering from colon cancer for several years. It was his decision to seek treatment that led to his arrest following a visit to a clinic in the Sicilian capital Palermo.

Facing numerous life sentences, he was detained in a high-security jail in L’Aquila, where he continued treatment in his cell, according to reports.

But in early August, Messina Denaro was moved to the inmates ward of the local hospital, where his condition has declined in recent days.

He is now in an “irreversible coma”, according to media reports. Medics have stopped feeding him and he has asked not to be resuscitated.

Messina Denaro was for many years a leading figure in Cosa Nostra, the real-life Sicilian crime syndicate depicted in the Godfather movies.

This handout photo taken and released by the Italian Carabinieri Press Office on January 16th, 2023, shows the last picture of Italy’s top wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro in Palermo, following his arrest. Handout / ITALIAN CARABINIERI PRESS OFFICE / AFP

He was also one of its most ruthless bosses and was handed six life sentences over the years, including for his role in the murder of anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992.

He was also found guilty of involvement in a string of deadly bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993, and the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the 12-year-old son of a witness in the Falcone case.

Messina Denaro disappeared in the summer of 1993, and became the top name on Italy’s most-wanted list.

READ ALSO: More than 100 suspected Italian mafia members arrested in Europe-wide raids

There was intense speculation in the years that followed about where he had gone. In the end, he was found to have been staying near his hometown of Castelvetrano in western Sicily.

Investigators had been combing the Sicilian countryside for possible hideouts for years, wiretapping members of his family and his friends.

They were heard discussing the medical problems of an unnamed person who suffered from cancer, as well as eye problems – a person who detectives became sure was Messina Denaro.

They used a national health system database to search for male patients of the right age and medical history, and eventually closed in.

But while his arrest brought some relief for his victims, the mob boss always maintained his silence.

In interviews in custody since being arrested, Messina Denaro even denied he was a member of the Cosa Nostra.