Failing health, more than anything else, ended 30 years as a fugitive for Matteo Messina Denaro, Italy’s most wanted man, until his arrest on Monday.
Messina Denaro, 60, was caught with an accomplice outside a private clinic in Palermo. Judiciary sources said that the mobster used to visit there after undergoing cancer surgery last year.
Palermo prosecutor Paolo Guido told a news conference that the illness. Was “an event in the life of a (fugitive) person that forces them to come forward.”
After receiving a tip that he was ill, police honed in on Messina Denaro, in part by checking. The National Health System’s database to rule out other potential suspects of a similar age and condition.
General Pasquale Angelosanto of the Carabinieri police ROS special force said the investigative work was “relentless, constant and growing”.
He added that over the years Carabinieri police had arrested more than 100 alleged associates of Messina Denaro – including his sister. ASnd other family members – and seized assets worth about 150 million euros ($162 million), weakening his support network.
In the end, the man known as ‘U Siccu’ (the skinny) or ‘Diabolique’ (an Italian comic character) offered no resistance. And did not try to escape, said Maurizio De Lucia, Palermo’s chief prosecutor.
“We caught very dangerous fugitives without using violence, we didn’t even have to use handcuffs,” he said.
Officers found a well-dressed man, apparently in good health, with a luxury watch worth 35,000 euros ($37,840).
Although police and magistrates did not know what Messina Denaro looked like – computer-generated images relied on decades-old photographs. It was immediately clear that they had arrested the right man.
Colonel Lucio Arcidiacono, another head of the special forces of the Carabinieri police. Said: “It took little to be sure that he was the one we were hoping to find.”
Messina Denaro has spent his life in hiding in various parts of Italy. But has recently stayed in his home province of Trapani, western , and in the island’s regional capital, Palermo, chief prosecutor De Lucia said.
Questioning the extent to which political and other institutional connections have allowed mobsters to escape justice for so long, De Lucia calls his supposed white-collar enablers the “mafia bourgeoisie”.
Prosecutors insist the cancer-stricken mobster is fit enough to serve time in prison after being convicted in absentia of a long list of murders, including a teenage boy whose body was dissolved in acid.