Infamous Sicilian Mafia Boss Matteo Messina Denaro, Dies in Prison After Decades on the Run

End of an Era: Italy’s Most Wanted Mafia Boss Matteo Messina Denaro Passes Away in Custody. Italian media reports confirm the death of Matteo Messina Denaro, the notorious Sicilian Mafia boss, who had spent nearly three decades evading law enforcement. Messina Denaro succumbed to colon cancer while receiving medical treatment at San Salvatore hospital in L’Aquila, central Italy, according to public broadcaster Rai.

Matteo Messina Denaro, commonly referred to as “Diabolik,” was believed to have orchestrated numerous Mafia-related murders on behalf of the Cosa Nostra crime group. His capture in January marked the end of a long and elusive criminal career that spanned from 1993, when he became a fugitive, to his eventual arrest.

Before his capture, Europol considered Messina Denaro one of Europe’s most wanted men, with several life sentences handed down in absentia for his involvement in heinous crimes, including the 1992 assassinations of anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

In 2020, he received an additional life sentence for fatal bombings in Milan, Florence, and Rome during the late 1990s. His involvement in the murder and torture of an 11-year-old boy, Giuseppe Di Matteo, who testified against the Cosa Nostra, further added to his criminal record.

Despite his convictions, Messina Denaro consistently denied any association with the Cosa Nostra, a claim that was contested in various court proceedings.

At the time of his death, ongoing cases concerning the murders of Falcone and Borsellino and the murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo were being pursued in higher courts.

The January police operation that led to Messina Denaro’s capture involved more than 100 agents from the anti-Mafia Carabinieri. In the years leading up to his arrest, anti-Mafia forces had been closing in on his associates, confiscating around €3 billion ($3.25 billion) in assets belonging to those suspected of supporting him during his fugitive years.

Experts suggested that Messina Denaro had lost much of his former power and influence by the time of his arrest, thanks to these crackdowns and seizures.

Matteo Messina Denaro was considered one of the successors to the infamous Bernardo Provenzano, who was arrested in a farmhouse outside Corleone, Sicily, in April 2006.

Crime ran in the family for Messina Denaro, born to a known Mafia boss in Sicily. His brother, Salvatore Messina Denaro, was among those arrested during the 2009-2010 crackdown but refused to disclose information about Matteo’s whereabouts. In 2013, his sister, Patrizia Messina Denaro, received a 14-year prison sentence for her affiliation with the Mafia.

Rumors about Messina Denaro’s failing health had circulated in Sicily for months before his arrest. Some reports even suggested the possibility of a deal to bring him back to the surface in exchange for better cancer care.

Upon his arrest, Messina Denaro readily admitted his true identity, foregoing the use of his alias. Police discovered at least two hideouts in the Sicilian town of Campobello di Mazara, where he is believed to have resided in recent months, including one in the town center and another in a fortified bunker behind a concealed door.

During his years on the run, Messina Denaro closely aligned himself with Provenzano until the latter’s death in 2016, solidifying his status as the top boss.

Felia Allum, a professor of comparative organized crime and corruption at the University of Bath in the UK, noted that Messina Denaro represented the bridge between the overt Cosa Nostra of the early 1990s and the more discreet, business-oriented Mafia of the 21st century.

Matteo Messina Denaro is survived by his 27-year-old daughter, Lorenza Alagna, whose mother was one of his many romantic partners. All of these individuals have faced police questioning and are under investigation for their potential role in harboring the fugitive.

Lorenza Alagna, who initially refrained from visiting her father behind bars, eventually introduced him to his only known grandchild in May, marking a poignant moment in the life of the convicted mafioso.

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