Italy’s most-wanted Mafia boss nabbed after 30 years on the run

In this picture taken from a video released by Italian Carabinieri on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, top Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, center, leaves an Italian Carabinieri barrack soon after his arrest at a private clinic in Palermo, Sicily, after 30 years on the run, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Credit: Carabinieri via AP

Italy’s No. 1 fugitive, a Mafia boss convicted of helping to mastermind some of the nation’s most heinous slayings, was arrested Monday when he sought treatment at a private clinic in Sicily after three decades on the run.

Matteo Messina Denaro was tried in absentia and convicted of dozens of murders, including helping to mastermind, along with other Cosa Nostra bosses, a pair of 1992 bombings that killed top anti-Mafia prosecutors — and led the Italian state to stiffen its crackdown on the Sicilian crime syndicate.

He faces multiple life sentences that he is expected to serve in a maximum-security prison and under the particularly restrictive conditions reserved for top organized crime bosses. He went into hiding a year after those bombings while still a young man — but he was still considered one of Cosa Nostra’s top bosses even as a fugitive.

Hundreds of police officers were tasked over the years with tracking him, the last of three longtime top-level Mafia bosses who managed to elude capture for decades. He is now 60, and his health condition helped investigators zero in on him, according to Carabinieri Gen. Pasquale Angelosanto, who heads the police force’s special operations squad.

“It all led to today’s date (when) he would have come for some tests and treatment” at the clinic, the Carabinieri general said.

Authorities did not say what he was being treated for, but he was captured at La Maddalena clinic in Palermo, an upscale medical facility with a reputation for treating cancer patients, and Italian media said he was undergoing treatment for a year. During an evening news conference, authorities said Messina Denaro’s treatment could continue at a hospital prison ward. Investigators said he was unarmed and dressed like a typical patient at the clinic, though wearing a watch worth at least 30,000 euros (about $33,000).

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