“The only thing for certain is that he is alive”. Welcoming the news of the arrest of Matteo Messina Denaro, the mafia boss fugitive for over 30 years, by paraphrasing journalist Tomasso Besozzi who reported on the death of Salvatore Giuliano in his paper, “L’Europeo”, from Castelvetrano on July 5th, 1950, questioning the Carabinieri’s account that the bandit had died after a firefight.
Instead, the mafia boss (“pupil” of Totò Riina) was captured on January 16th, 2023, sick though alive during a visit to a clinic in Palermo in efforts to stop a fatal tumor. He seemed to have frequented the clinic under the name Andrea Bonafede (a name he allegedly took from a “mafioso” relative from Campobello di Mazara, a town no more than a ten minute drive from where he was born). Matteo Messina Denaro, born in 1962, is the son of Don Ciccio, head of the district of Castelvetrano, who was also a fugitive for decades and finally “found” dead in 1998 in his bed after suffering a heart attack.
Could being number one “most wanted” for 30 years, staying in Sicily while continuing to command Cosa Nostra from the Trapani province, be considered skill or luck? And for the state? Just bad luck? At the beginning of his very long time at large in Italy, magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and their escort were massacred. Messina Denaro’s disappearance can hardly accredited to chance. In Italian History, from 1860 onward, the relationship between State and Mafia had been between “war and peace.”
There are final judgements of processes that would prove, also with regards to the Cosa Nostra of Trapani led by Messina Denaro, certain reports of connivances and exchange of “favors” with state representatives for “peace” to prevail.
Nevertheless, the news was received applauding the magistrates and the Carabinieri that were able to track down the fugitive “super boss”, and apparently, without any “tips”, thanks to the precise investigative work and wiretapping.
“It is a historic day, a day of celebration for the good people, for the families of the victims of the Mafia, because the sacrifice of so many heroes was not in vain.” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke in front of the Palace of Justice in Palermo after meeting with the Chief Prosecutor of Palermo, Maurizio de Lucia, triumphantly announcing to reporters the reaction of her government to the arrest of Messina Denaro. “I like to imagine that this could be the day in which the work of the men and women that have persevered in the war against the Mafia is celebrated. And it is a proposal that I will make.” The Prime Minister continued, which also sends a message to the healthy part of Palermo and Sicily. “The message is to continue to believe that the state can give better answers, that the state is there, it will take care of them, we will do our best so they never have to find themselves in despair of having to do something that they don’t ever want to do. But they must also have the alternative and we must build the alternative, we must do everything we can, because that is the most effective tool in the fight against the cancerous Mafia.”
Was Giorgia Meloni lucky? Who knows. Maybe luck also plays a role as she stated publicly during a dispute with Silvio Berlusconi that she is “not subject to blackmail.” We’ll see. Also because, as stated above, the fact that Matteo is “alive” already sets the tone of a “ticking time bomb” full of secretes that, if it were to explode, could overwhelm the history of Italy.
Matteo Messina Denaro is held responsible for dozens of homicides. Beyond the massacres of Falcone and Borsellino, he is accused of being among the masterminds behind the kidnapping of Giuseppe Di Matteo, a 12-year-old child kidnapped by the Mafia in order to blackmail his father, Santino, from leaking details on the Capici massacre. After two years of torture, Giuseppe was strangled to death and his body dissolved in acid.
Unwaveringly faithful to Totò Riina, the Corleone boss known as “the Beast”, Matteo u siccu (nickname in the Sicilian dialect which translates to “the skinny one”) was placed under the orders of Bernardo Provenzano after Riina’s arrest. After the arrest of Binnu ‘u tratturi (Bernardo Provenzano), Matteo Diabolik (another nickname) became his own boss.
Now what will happen? We swiftly contacted Giacomo di Girolamo, our colleague and journalist from Marsala, director of TP24, and RMC101 the most streamed radio station in the province of Trapani. He has been conducting a program for years which begins with “Matteo, where are you, Matteo?” Girolamo has written many important books on the mafia boss of Castelvetrano and could be considered a leading expert on Messina Denaro.
Giacomo, Congratulations to the Carabinieri, congratulations to all: but why did they capture him now and not sooner?
“Before, they obviously didn’t succeed. This time they followed the trail of a surgical intervention to treat colon cancer for a man named “Andrea Bonafede” who, on the day of his operation, was nowhere to be found. From there, suspicions were raised. Then, in retrospect, it became clear: Messina Denaro, who has a tumor in his colon with liver metastases, is dying. It almost appears as if he turned himself in. But today, for now, we celebrate the fugitive’s arrest.
On the Mafia’s “secrets”: it is believed that Messina Denaro has kept them closely guarded since Riina’s arrest…what do you think he will do now?
“He has secrets that would send Italy into chaos. He witnessed the crucial turning points of ’92-’93 with secrets that could incriminate politicians and entrepreneurs alike. I don’t think he will ever speak…but we’ll see.”
Translated by Ian Udulutch