‘Like a rollercoaster ride’: the man who caught Sicily’s last mafia boss | Mafia

‘Like a rollercoaster journey’: the person who caught Sicily’s final mafia boss | Mafia

OAt 8:20 a.m. on Monday, January, dozens of plainclothes carabinieri are ready exterior a personal clinic in Palermo within the pouring rain. No one strikes. The stress is excessive. The radio crackles. The goal is transferring. Now or by no means. When the colonel provides the phrase, two carabinieri officers arrest a well-dressed man in a sheepskin coat, white wool hat and darkish glasses.

“What’s your title?” the colonel asks, speeding in entrance of the suspect and blocking him on the clinic’s exit.

“You recognize who I’m,” the person replied. It was true: Lieutenant Lucio Arcidiacono, commander of the Carabinieri’s Particular Operations Group investigative unit, knew full nicely that the particular person he had in custody was Matteo Messina Denaro, the final godfather of the Sicilian Mafia and one of many world’s most wished criminals. . In 2002, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for having personally killed or ordered the homicide of dozens of individuals.

Each cop has his prey, similar to each mob boss has his hunter. Arcidiacono hunted Denaro for eight lengthy years, and for eight years Denaro eluded him like a ghost. Till January 16, when the information of his seize went world wide: Denaro, maybe the final dwelling image of Cosa Nostra, was arrested after 30 years on the run.

Matteo Messina was escorted from a Carabinieri police station after he was arrested in Palermo, Italy on January 16, 2023.
Matteo Messina was escorted from a Carabinieri police station after he was arrested in Palermo, Italy on January 16, 2023. Photograph: Carabinieri/Reuters

“Searching an escaped boss is like being on a curler coaster,” says Arcidiacono in an interview with the Guardian. “There are occasions once you suppose you are near the end line. Then there are occasions once you fly very low and after months you understand that the path has gone chilly.”

Born and raised in Sicily, the fates of Denaro and Arcidiacon nearly crossed 30 years in the past. On the identical days that Denaro went on the run in June 1993, starting along with his lengthy absence, Arcidiacono despatched his utility to the Carabinieri Academy. It was the years of mob terror that the bosses launched a bombing marketing campaign for which Denaro was in the end accountable.

“I used to be 20 years previous in 1993,” says Arcidiacono. “The murders of the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino the earlier 12 months deeply affected me and gave me the decisive impulse to change into a carabinieri officer.”

In 2003, Arcidiacono was despatched to Naples, the place in these years the bloody “Secondigliano” feud between the Camorra gangs was raging within the streets.

“A really tough interval, but additionally very formative from an expert standpoint,” says Arcidiacono.

If there’s one factor Arcidiacono does nicely, it is monitoring mobsters. In 2005, he assisted within the arrest of Paolo Di Laura, nicknamed “Ciruzzo the Millionaire”, one of the crucial highly effective drug traffickers on the earth. That very same 12 months in Spain, his crew arrested Raffaele Amato, head of the Amato-Pagano clan from Naples.

Lucio Arcidiacono, commander of the Carabinieri Ros, talks with the Carabinieri of the scientific investigation department near the apartment where investigators said they found a secret bunker used by mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro.
Lucio Arcidiacono, commander of the Carabinieri Ros, talks with the Carabinieri of the scientific investigation division close to the residence the place investigators stated they discovered a secret bunker utilized by mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

The turning level got here in 2015, when Arcidiacono was transferred to Palermo, Sicily. There he’ll face his most tough job: to seek out the super-fugitive Denaro. Nicknamed the Diabolik, Denaro – who as soon as claimed: “I stuffed a cemetery, all on my own” – holds the important thing to among the most heinous crimes dedicated by the Mafia, together with the 1996 killing of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 12-year-old son of a Mafia defector who was kidnapped, strangled and disbanded in acid. Yr after 12 months, Italian investigators relentlessly raided his companies and arrested greater than 100 of his associates. However each time the authorities appeared to be closing in on their goal, Denaro disappeared.

“We burned the bottom round him,” says Arcidiacono. “We arrested his family members and plenty of of his protectors. However over time we additionally adopted some leads that have been unsuitable.

“However you see, looking for a fugitive is nerve-wracking. You even must interpret the bosses’ silence beneath wiretapping. It occurred that two folks bought right into a automotive and didn’t say a phrase for concern of being caught. However you recognize there are two folks in that automotive since you hear two doorways shut. In the future we had an instinct and all of the items we had collected over the earlier eight years fell into place.”

In early 2022, some telephone conversations between mobsters appeared to comprise a particular clue: the boss had colon most cancers and wanted rapid therapy. The Carabinieri requested the Ministry of Well being to entry medical data of colon most cancers sufferers matching the chief’s historical past. Investigators combed by the knowledge of hundreds of sufferers till they discovered one: Andrea Bonafede.

“He was a person with a clear report who nonetheless had family members linked to the clans and above all lived in Campobello di Mazara, 7 km from Denara’s hometown,” defined Arcidiacono.

For no less than a 12 months, Denaro obtained common therapy at a personal clinic in Palermo beneath the title Andrea Bonafede. On the Friday earlier than the arrest, the carabinieri obtained a vital tip: on January 16, round 8 a.m., the suspect would return to the clinic to bear therapy.

Residents of Palermo thank the police in front of the barracks after the arrest of Denaro.
Residents of Palermo thank the police in entrance of the barracks after the arrest of Denaro. Photograph: Alberto Lo Bianco/REX/Shutterstock

“I did not sleep a wink the evening earlier than I used to be arrested,” says Arcidiacono. “Weird as it might appear, I’ve considered Messina Denaro every single day for the previous few years. I requested him his title, however the reality is, once I had him in entrance of me, I knew precisely who he was.

After his arrest, Denaro was transferred to a high-security jail within the central Italian metropolis of L’Aquila, the place he’ll proceed his most cancers therapy.

As for Arcidiacon, his title will go down in historical past alongside Elliot Ness, who introduced down Al Capone; Captain “Ultimo” who captured the bloodthirsty boss Totò Riina; and police chief Renato Cortese, who imprisoned the godfather of the Corleonesi clan, Bernardo Provenzano. However Arcidiacono will let you know that his work has simply begun.

“We have now an obligation to search out out who has been defending him all these years. Our work doesn’t finish. We have now an extended technique to go.”


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