Hiding in plain sight: how the Sicilian mafia godfather eluded capture for 30 years | Mafia

aAt 8.20am final Monday, Andrea Bonafede was standing in line at a check-in at a non-public medical clinic in Palermo, Sicily. He suffers from colon most cancers and is believed to be 59. He has already undergone two operations and chemotherapy on the clinic, typically bringing workers items of olive oil and exchanging telephone numbers and textual content messages with fellow sufferers. He was recognized to decorate glamorously: that morning he was carrying a sheepskin coat, a white hat, Ray-Ban shades, and an costly Franck Muller watch.

Ready for his Covid take a look at, he went outdoors and walked over to the Fiat Brava and the driving force who introduced him there. The undercover officers watching him had been involved that he had realized he was being watched and could be about to run away. A colonel of the Carabinieri, the Italian army police, determined to maneuver: “Are you Matteo Messina Denarau? “

“You understand who I’m,” got here the weary response.

Police composite photo of Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, left;  And, as it seems today, it is true.
Police composite photograph of Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, left; And, proper, because it seems at present. Picture: AP

The 150 Policemen and Carabinieri who had been in place instantly scurried out and in of the clinic. Toto Schillacci, the previous worldwide soccer participant from Palermo, was caught within the blitz, later likening it to a “loopy home, wild west”. Masked armed forces exited unmarked autos and blocked exit roads and streets. After 30 years on the run, he is essentially the most needed man in Italy – aka Yo Sekoor “skinny” – caught final.

Realizing what was taking place, the viewers members began to applaud. Some males put on masks. In lower than an hour, Messina Denaro’s arrest was making information around the globe. The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella (whose brother Piersanti was murdered by the Mafia in 1980 when he was governor of Sicily), has thanked the police and prosecutors. The Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, instantly traveled to Palermo to congratulate the Particular Forces on the seize of the person who helped plan a terror-style bombing marketing campaign throughout Italy in 1992 and 1993.

In these years, with the disintegration of certainties within the First Republic, the confrontation between the Italian state and Cosa Nostra turned violent. Two tenacious detectives, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, persuade a former gangster, Tommaso Buscetta, to transform state witness. The mafia’s secret group and political connections are clearly revealed for the primary time. In group trials 338 Mafia Convicted.

When these verdicts had been upheld on enchantment, the Mafia exacted a brutal retaliation: its political protector, Salvo Lima, was executed in March 1992, and later that yr each detectives had been murdered in very public bombings on the island. Falcone, his spouse and three bodyguards had been killed on the street between the airport and Palermo in Might; Borsellino was murdered in Palermo in July, together with 5 of his bodyguards, whereas visiting his sister and mom. Messina Denarau was concerned within the operational planning of each bombings.

The next yr, the phobia marketing campaign turned to the mainland. At 1.04 am on the twenty seventh In Might 1993, a bomb exploded outdoors the Uffizi Gallery, on the Through dei Giorgioville in Florence, destroying a number of artworks and killing 5 folks, together with a nine-year-old lady, Nadia, and her two-month-old sister. Two months later, on the twenty seventh July A bomb explodes outdoors a recent artwork gallery in Milan, killing 5. The following day, there have been two extra bombs in Rome, however this time with out casualties. Messina Denaro was convicted, in absentia, of ordering and planning a bombing marketing campaign on the mainland.

The scene outside the Uffizi Gallery after the 1993 bombing
The scene outdoors the Uffizi Artwork Gallery after the 1993 bombing during which 5 folks had been killed. Picture: Siba/REX/Shutterstock

Matteo Messina Denaro was born in 1962 within the province of Trapani, the son of a convicted gangster who labored for the rich Dali household. turned protected to Toto Riina, Chief of ChiefsHe was well-known as a party-loving womanizer and ruthless killer. He had fallen in love with an Austrian girl working in a resort in Selinunte and when her supervisor, Nicola Consalis, was heard complaining of “a bit of MafiaWho had been loitering across the resort, he was – in Palermo in 1991 – shot useless.

A yr later, one other mobster complained about Reina’s technique of direct assault on the Italian state. Messina Denaro referred to as Vincenzo Milazzo to a gathering, shot him, and strangled his pregnant associate, Antonella Bonomo. Later that yr, he was a part of the group that tried to kill policeman Calogero Germana. at one Mafia She turned a state witness, Messina Denarau was a part of dome – a bunch of high-ranking mafia bosses – who ordered the kidnapping of his 12-year-old son, Giuseppe Di Matteo. The boy was held for 779 days earlier than he was strangled and dissolved in acid. Messina Denarau as soon as bragged that he had killed sufficient folks to fill a cemetery.

However throughout his three a long time in hiding, Messina Denaro took the Mafia in a brand new route. Executions of runaway vehicles and semtex explosions solely assure crackdowns, dangerous headlines, and Yo Seko They noticed how the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta, has enriched itself by quietly infiltrating and investing in professional companies. Messina Denaro has put his soiled cash into clear power, utilizing a little-known electrician as a entrance to construct a €1.5 billion wind energy empire. He created a €700m chain of 83 shops via one other entrance man.

The detectives turned suspicious concerning the many builders and salami makers who had been instantly making thousands and thousands with slot machines, stolen vintage treasures, transportation hubs, building firms, and vacationer resorts, in order that they started arresting these they suspected of being fronts for the Sicilian “Crimson Vermilion”. In 2011 alone, they nabbed 140 suspected burglar suspects and frontmen, just a few of whom turned the other way up and gave investigators an perception into the Messina Denaro enterprise empire.

However the man himself remained elusive. The investigators did not even know what he seemed like. There was solely {a photograph} from 1993 that was artificially aged. An operation to find him was referred to as Tramonto (“Sundown”), named after a poem written by nine-year-old Nadia who was murdered in Florence. The breakthrough got here when wiretaps of his family revealed that Messina Denaro had colon most cancers. The investigators obtained lists of all sufferers over 55 years of age present process oncological remedy for this illness within the provinces of Agrigento, Palermo and Trapani.

Giuseppe Di Matteo
Giuseppe Di Matteo, who was killed on the watch of Messina Denaro.

Among the many doable matches, one stood out: Andrea Bonafede was the identify of a person on the fringes of the Mafia and it turned out that when he was alleged to be on the working desk in Palermo, his telephone had already revealed his presence in Campobello di Mazara close to Trapani. The plain conclusion was that Bonafide had lent his identification to somebody whose identification he couldn’t reveal. Day 29 December, “Bonafede” booked an appointment on the Palermo clinic for the sixteenth January And when the true Bonafide stayed residence final Monday morning, the authorities determined to behave.

However regardless of the preliminary euphoria on the infamous fugitive’s seize, particulars of his life as a fugitive shocked the nation final week. Wanting surprisingly much like the artificially aged photograph, Messina Denaro lives out within the open in Campobello di Mazara, subsequent to his hometown of Castelvetrano. He used to go recurrently to the native pub, pizzeria and even, in keeping with experiences, to the Palermo soccer stadium. Viagra present in his condo suggests he has firm. One of many medical doctors who was treating him took selfies as if he knew he was within the presence of a star. In a metropolis of simply over 11,000 folks, Messina Denaro was referred for remedy by a normal practitioner (reputed to be a member of an area Masonic lodge) who supposedly knew the true Bonafede.

says Federico Varese, professor of criminology on the College of Oxford and writer of Mafia life. “It’s extraordinary and disturbing that it took 30 years to catch this man and this speaks to 1 fact: there was no assist from native informants due to the deep distrust of the folks on this a part of Italy in the direction of state establishments.” one other former fugitive, Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzanowas in a position to elude seize for 43 years.

However extra than simply passive Omerta, or the silence of the local people, a number of investigators spoke final week of energetic complicity. Pascual Angelosanto, the commander of the elite forces behind Operation Tramonto, lamented that the lengthy manhunt was “marked by politicians, legislation enforcement officers, and state officers arrested or investigated for warning their boss that the circle was closing in.” Time and time once more the authorities thought an arrest was imminent, however it was thwarted on the final second: on one event, the police stormed the suspected assembly place in Bagheria the place Messina Denaro was believed to be assembly one in all his lovers, Maria Massi. They discovered solely contemporary caviar, a shawl, a bracelet, Advantage cigarettes, and a jigsaw, all of which had been unexpectedly deserted.

Suspicions of an overlap between institutional figures and arranged crime have deepened in current months: in December final yr, Antonio Dali – former Undersecretary of the Inside Ministry throughout the 2001-2006 authorities of Silvio Berlusconi – was discovered responsible of “exterior collusion with the mafia”. Each Messina Denaro and his father labored for the Dali household. In September 2022, Toto Covaro, the previous governor of the island who spent practically 5 years in jail for “aiding and abetting” Cosa Nostra and breaching the confidentiality of the investigations, is operating for re-election. His celebration, or “record,” gained 5 seats within the regional council. In an ongoing trial, a number of different politicians are accused of negotiating with the mafia in these disaster years 1992-1993.

The faint hope that the captive man would cooperate with the authorities and reveal among the secrets and techniques of that darkish interval was additionally dashed. The choice to nominate his niece, a infamous advocate for MafiaHis lawyer additionally means that he is not going to make any disclosures or confessions. Neither is there a lot hope of considerably weakening the group. The mafia can’t be lowered to its ‘bosses’:[they have] It has developed right into a community of organizations able to compensating for the disappearance of a single particular person via the ability of the system.”

“The longevity of this legal group is extraordinary,” Varese says. “It has been round because the 1830s, for much longer than most companies. We have to ask what’s being executed to rid us not simply of the top, however of the basis causes of the Mafia.”

Tobias Jones lives in Parma. His newest ebook is The Po: Elegy for the Longest River in Italy

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