Matteo Messina Denaro, the most sought mafia boss in Italy, was apprehended in Sicily after 30 years on the lam.
According to reports, Messina Denaro was held in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, in a private hospital.
He is said to be a top official in the infamous Cosa Nostra mafia.
He was reportedly receiving treatment when he was apprehended just before 10:00 (09:00 GMT) and transferred to a secure facility by the Carabinieri, according to Italian media.
According to reports, the arrest involved more than 100 military personnel.
In a video that has been circulating in Italian media, Messina Denaro is seen being dragged away as others cheer the Italian police from the street.
In 1992, Messina Denaro was prosecuted for many murders and given an absentee life sentence.
These include the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone in 1992, the devastating bombings in Milan, Florence, and Rome in 1993, and the abduction, torture, and death of the 11-year-old son of a mafioso who later testified as a state witness.
Messina Denaro allegedly bragged that his victims could “fill a cemetery.”
The formidable Cosa Nostra organized crime syndicate’s mafia boss also handled racketeering, illicit garbage disposal, money-laundering, and drug trafficking. According to rumors, he was Tot Riina’s protege. Tot Riina was the boss of the Corleone family and was apprehended in 1993 after 23 years on the lam.
Clans dubbed Messina Denaro “U Siccu” and “Diabolik,” both of which refer to elusive thieves in comic books (Skinny).
He is regarded as the final “secret-keeper” of the Cosa Nostra. He allegedly has all the details and names of those responsible for some of the Mafia’s most notorious crimes, including the bombings that killed Magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. This is according to many informers and prosecutors.
Even though Messina Denaro had been on the run since 1993, it was believed that he was still giving commands to his staff members from various hidden locations.
By keeping an eye on people closest to Messina Denaro, Italian investigators have frequently come close to apprehending him over the years. As a result, his sister Patrizia and numerous other of his accomplices were detained in 2013. Additionally, Messina Denaro’s lucrative companies were taken by the police, further isolating him.
However, Messina Denaro was rarely captured on camera, so when authorities tried to recreate his appearance decades after he fled, they were forced to rely on computer composites. It took until 2021 for a recording of his voice to be made public.
A Formula 1 enthusiast from Liverpool was detained under duress in a Dutch restaurant in September 2021 after being mistaken for Messina Denaro.
When word of the mafia boss’s arrest came on Monday morning, Italians were glued to their televisions.
Messina Denaro had stood for the state’s incapacity to penetrate the top levels of organized criminal syndicates for years. In the south of the nation, where the state is viewed as mainly absent and useless, his capture will be an unexpected symbol of hope that the mafia can be destroyed.
From all political stances, people paid tribute to the military’s work.
Judge and former attorney general Gian Carlo Caselli stated that Messina Denaro’s arrest was a “extraordinary… simple historical occurrence” that might result in important advancements in the ongoing investigations into the 1993 bomb blasts that claimed 10 lives throughout Italy.
Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, praised the military for its efforts in capturing the “most significant mafia criminal group member,” calling it “a fantastic success for the state.”