Mafia boss "Diabolik" dies in custody after decades on the runaccording to Italian media reports. The notorious Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, believed to have ordered numerous Mafia-related murders on behalf of the Cosa Nostra crime group, breathed his last at the San Salvatore hospital in L’Aquila, central Italy.
He had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer and was transferred to the prison hospital just last week. At the time of his demise, he was in a medically induced coma, according to the hospital.
Before his arrest at a private health clinic in Palermo in January, Matteo Messina Denaro had been a fugitive since 1993, earning him the status of one of the most wanted men in Europe, as noted by prosecutor Maurizio de Lucia.
Throughout his years on the run, Messina Denaro had been sentenced to multiple life terms in absentia, notably in 1992 for his involvement in the assassinations of anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. In 2020, he received his latest life sentence for deadly bombings that occurred in Milan, Florence, and Rome during the late 1990s. He was also convicted for the murder and torture of the 11-year-old son of an individual who had testified against the Cosa Nostra.
Prior to his passing, legal proceedings for the murders of Falcone and Borsellino, as well as for the killing of 11-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo, were underway, with cases being escalated to higher courts.
Throughout his life, Messina Denaro consistently denied any involvement with the Cosa Nostra, despite the convictions against him. Remaining a fugitive for nearly three decades, he held the record as the longest-hiding member of the Cosa Nostra. The operation in January that led to his apprehension at the Maddalena clinic involved over 100 agents from the anti-Mafia Carabinieri.
Anti-Mafia law enforcement had been gradually closing in on Messina Denaro's network, confiscating approximately €3 billion ($3.25 billion) in assets linked to his companions, relatives, and associates who were suspected of aiding his life in hiding. This crackdown occurred between 2009 and 2010, and experts noted that Messina Denaro had lost much of the influence he once wielded.
Matteo Messina Denaro, also known as Diabolik, was considered one of the successors to Bernardo Provenzano, who gained notoriety when he was apprehended while in hiding at a farmhouse near Corleone, Sicily, in April 2006.
Crime ran in the family for Messina Denaro, who was born on April 26, 1962, to a well-known Mafia boss in Sicily. During the crackdown that occurred between 2009 and 2010, his brother Salvatore Messina Denaro was among those arrested. Salvatore, however, chose not to disclose any information about Matteo's whereabouts. In 2013, his sister Patrizia Messina Denaro received a 14-year prison sentence, which she is currently serving, for her association with the Mafia.
A mugshot of Matteo Messina Denaro after he was arrested
You always need to respect death, because unlike mafiosi, we respect life until death. But we cannot forget who Messina Denaro was, a murderer, a mass murderer who hurt his land.- Mayor of Castelvetrano Enzo Alfano
Despite having remained in hiding for nearly two decades, rumors of Matteo Messina Denaro's deteriorating health had been circulating throughout Sicily for months before his arrest earlier this year. There were even indications of a potential "arrangement" to coax him out of hiding in exchange for improved cancer treatment.
Upon his apprehension, Messina Denaro confessed to his true identity rather than attempting to use his alias, as revealed by a Palermo prosecutor at the time. Subsequently, law enforcement discovered at least two hideouts in the Sicilian town of Campobello di Mazara, where he is believed to have resided in recent months. One hideout was located in the town center while another was a fortified bunker concealed behind a hidden door, according to local officials.
He maintained communication with fellow mafia members using "pizzini," tiny paper notes, often encoded, and distributed by messengers. Some of these messages were intercepted by law enforcement.
Felia Allum, a professor specializing in comparative organized crime and corruption at the University of Bath in the UK, noted in January that Messina Denaro represented the last of an older generation of Mafia leaders.
He represents the final link between the belligerent and overt Cosa Nostra of the early 1990s and the silent, business-like Mafia of the 21st century.- Felia Allum
Matteo Messina Denaro is survived by his 27-year-old daughter, Lorenza Alagna, whose mother was one of Messina Denaro's numerous romantic companions. Law enforcement has interrogated all of his alleged partners, who are currently under investigation for aiding a fugitive.
Initially, Alagna declined to visit her father while he was incarcerated. However, on May 10, she decided to introduce her baby to Messina Denaro, marking the convicted mafioso's sole known grandchild, according to the prison spokesperson's statement at the time.
Despite his infamous reputation, prosecutors have consistently cast doubt on Messina Denaro's status as the Mafia's "boss of bosses," suggesting that he likely held the position of the head of Cosa Nostra in western Sicily. A government official has stated that his body is anticipated to be repatriated to Sicily in the near future for a strictly private funeral.