Saturday, January 28, 2023

Mafia protests after arrest of fugitive for 30 years

ROME ( Associated Press) – Matteo Messina Denaro’s long record as a murderer – renegade mobsters said he bragged about having killed enough to fill a cemetery – as a prominent Sicilian mob boss has been shunned by his associates. Beach polished up its credentials to a great extent.

Continuing to run most of the mob cases after evading justice for 30 years, he was arrested on Monday at the Palermo clinic where the convicted mobster was undergoing chemotherapy. Although he was transferred to a maximum-security prison on the Italian peninsula early Tuesday, Cosa Nostra’s demise is not expected because of the criminal organization’s centuries-old roots and rules.

“We cannot know what will happen in detail” regarding the Mafia’s future, admitted Palermo’s Attorney General Lia Sava in statements to state radio Rai.

“But one thing’s for sure. La Cosa Nostra is made of rules. They’ve relied on these rules for 150 years, so they’ll certainly apply those rules to make amends and thus the new leadership needed after an arrest.” Will build the framework,” Sawa said.

Although Messina Denaro wielded considerable influence in the mob, the Cosa Nostra has lacked a kingpin for decades, detectives say.

The practically legendary figure of the “boss of bosses” came to an end in 1993, with the arrest in a hideout in Palermo of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, who had been the main fugitive from Italian justice for 23 years.

According to testimony given during the trial that led to his conviction for several murders, including the 1992 bombings that killed two of Italy’s top anti-mafia magistrates, Reina was in charge of the Cosa Nostra “commission”. Who used to run illegal business. Who strategizes a deadly retribution against the state for its campaign to suppress the Mafia.

Rome’s chief prosecutor, Francesco Lo Voi, had “never had an absolute boss, after Riina”, who took up his position last year after serving as Palermo chief prosecutor, in coordinating the search for Messina Denaro. helped.

Even if the Capo di Capi figure still existed, the Messina Denaro would not qualify because he came from Castelvetrano in the far west of Sicily, not Palermo or its surroundings, citing Cosa Nostra rules. Lo Voi insisted while giving.

Nevertheless, Messina Denaro, the son of a criminal boss, “was one of the most important bosses and (he) had ties to other criminal organizations in Italy and abroad,” Lo Voi says in an interview with The Associated Press.

Lo Voi says, “So his arrest certainly represents an earthquake for the Cosa Nostra at this point in time.”

Lo Voi states that another factor that enhanced Messina Denaro’s reputation was his dark record as head of a clan of assassins that controlled western Sicily.

A military plane transported Messina Denaro on Tuesday to a maximum-security prison in L’Aquila in the central Apennine mountains, where strict rules for top organized crime bosses who do not cooperate with authorities include very limited visitor privileges.

Italy’s anti-mafia prosecutor, Giovanni Melillo, agrees that finally putting Messina Denaro behind bars will not change Cosa Nostra’s more than a decade-long strategy.

Melillo said on state television on Monday night that the strategy was “no longer that of violence”, pointing to the 1992 bombings that killed Palermo prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and the 1993 bombings of churches in Rome, the Uffizi. There were bombings targeting Galleries in Florence and an art gallery in Milan, part of a Mafia effort to get the state to suppress the Cosa Nostra.

Instead, the Cosa Nostra now prefers to remain hidden, opting to “co-penetrate into the social and economic fabric” of Italy, Melillo said.

A small army of Mafia renegades has helped Italian authorities put dozens of Cosa Nostra members behind bars over the past few decades and, as a result, fueled the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization’ located on the “toe” of the boot . forms the Italian peninsula—enabling him to absorb the influence of the Sicilian Mafia to become one of the world’s largest cocaine traffickers.

In the 1980s, an FBI sting operation working with Italian spies including Falcone broke up a multimillion-dollar heroin ring and cocaine distribution operation in New York involving Sicilian Mafia figures and the Gambino crime family.

But recently the Cosa Nostra “has increasingly turned back to drug trafficking, including cocaine, synthetic illegal drugs and heroin,” Lo Voi said. He stated that with substantial drug trafficking, there is no real rivalry between the Cosa Nostra and the ‘Ndrangheta.

With drug trafficking, says Lo Voi, “the profits are much higher and the activity less dangerous than extortion.”

Pressuring local businesses to make monthly extortion payments to crime groups, known as “pizzo”, has long been a mainstay of Cosa Nostra activity.

However, about 15 years ago, groups of youths in Palermo rebelled against the practice of their elders. Forming an organization called “Addiopizzo” (“Goodbye Pizzo”), he encouraged companies to report extortionists to the authorities rather than continue making payments.

Control of local territory is vital to the survival of the Mafia.

Lo Voi explains that during the COVID-19 pandemic, neighborhood gangsters provided residents with groceries after the family’s breadwinners lost their jobs.

That complex relationship – a mix of profit, intimidation and even collusion – is suspected of helping Messina Denaro evade the law for 30 years, most of that time in Sicily.

Since his arrest, police have been searching his most recent whereabouts: a house on a cul-de-sac in Campobello di Mazara, near Trapani. The owner is Andrea Bonafede, the fugitive name she used on her identity card to get treatment for cancer.

The real Bonafede is under investigation, including at least one doctor who, according to Italian media reports, was involved in treating fugitives at the clinic since late 2020.

Other cancer patients told La Repubblica newspaper that the man, wearing a designer scarf and hand-painted shirt, spoke freely with them while they were undergoing chemotherapy and sometimes gave them bottles of olive oil for free.

Six years ago, Italian authorities seized olive groves and bottling facilities belonging to Messina Denaro near Trapani worth €13 million.

“Bravy!” Two carabinieri escort him out of the clinic when on the street in front of the clinic, but others wonder why it took decades to catch him.

“I waited a long time for this to happen, but it’s absurd that it took 30 years,” Salvatore Borsellino, the brother of the slain prosecutor, told the Associated Press in a video interview from Palermo.

It is clear that “they had coverage” at the local level, but there must have been “institutional complicity” as well, Borsellino said.


Associated Press writer Andrea Rosa contributed to this report

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