The most sought mafia boss in Italy was captured by police after 30 years on the lam.
Matteo Messina Denaro, according to the prosecution, is a Cosa Nostra mafia boss in Sicily.
The 60-year-old was being treated at a private hospital in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, for an unexplained medical problem when police made the arrest on Monday morning.
For his part in the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, Messina Denaro was given a life sentence in absentia.
For his participation in the bombings that occurred in Florence, Rome, and Milan the following year that left 10 people dead, he also faces a life sentence.
Prosecutors have accused Messina Denaro, who is from the small southern town of Castelvetrano near Trapani, of being either the lone or joint perpetrator of a number of previous slayings in the 1990s.
Giuseppe Di Matteo, a 12-year-old boy, was abducted in 1993 as a result of his father’s decision to withhold information about the mafia, according to the prosecution. The boy was imprisoned for two years before being killed by being strangled and having his body dissolved in acid.
In spite of his protracted disappearance, police reported in September of last year that he was still in a position to provide orders regarding how the mafia was operated in the territory surrounding Trapani, a city in western Sicily that served as his regional stronghold.
His arrest was hailed by Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, as a “great success for the state.”
In a tweet, Meloni declared that “the prevention [of] and battle against mafia crime… will continue to be an absolute priority of our government.”
Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the convicted “boss of bosses,” was apprehended on Monday in a Palermo flat after 23 years on the lam.
The arrest of Messina Denaro, according to mafia expert and University College London professor John Dickie, is “another indicator of the demise of the Sicilian mafia.”
Dickie told Al Jazeera from London that “he was the youngest member of a leadership group within the Sicilian mafia who basically massacred all their rivals in order to seize control of the Sicilian mafia in the early 1980s and then conducted a massive offensive on the Italian state.”
Messina Denaro was the only member of that leadership group remaining at large, he continued, and “all of this was intended to try to induce the state to back down from a huge attack against organized crime that had been gaining steam.”
“[His arrest] is a very significant symbolic act that proves that in the end, the state will triumph—and in the case of the Sicilian mafia, the state is triumphant.”