Cosa Nostra boss arrested by Italy police after 30 years on the run


ROME — Italian authorities on Monday arrested their most wanted fugitive, Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was detained at a private clinic in the Sicilian city of Palermo after 30 years on the run.

Denaro had been on Italy’s most wanted list since the early 1990s and is alleged to be the head of the Cosa Nostra crime syndicate. He had already been convicted of dozens of murders in absentia and faces multiple life sentences.

His arrest marks a landmark moment in the decades-long battle by authorities against organized crime. Video on social media showed people cheering in the streets of Palermo, honking horns in celebration and clapping for the Carabinieri police.

“A great victory for the state,” Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement. She thanked the national anti-mafia unit as well as prosecutors in Palermo for their work.

With a reported penchant for fast cars, Rolexes and women, Denaro had built a reputation as the “boss of bosses.” But he had also become near-mythic for dodging authorities. Some informants reportedly spoke of facial surgeries. There were so few photos of him that Italian authorities had to rely on computer-generated images that approximated what he might look like as an older man.

The Carabinieri commander, Pasquale Angelosanto, told reporters that Denaro had been seeking to undergo treatment for an unspecified illness at a private clinic in Palermo.

The owner and director of that clinic, Stefania Filosto, told the Corriere della Sera that Denaro had been using a fake name — “Bonafede” — and that “nobody could have imagined” the patient was one of the world’s most wanted figures. Filosto said that Denaro had been looking to do chemotherapy.

He had been lining up for a coronavirus test when “suddenly armed men appeared,” Filosto told the paper.

Italian authorities said Denaro had a hand in two of the most notorious crimes in the country’s modern history: the bomb murders of anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellini, both of which occurred in Sicily in 1992.

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