The (detained) Godfather


Thomas Owens, Staff

A long Sicilian chapter closed on the 16th of January as Matteo Messina Denaro, the last major member of the Corleone clan, who helped organize the 1992 bombings against Italian prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, was arrested in a Palermo clinic on aged 60. He was the last top boss of the Cosa Nostra mafia to escape the justice of Italia. This makes Sicily and perhaps Italy itself, take an enormous leap toward reduced organized crime within the Mediterranean region.  

The Cosa Nostra is probably recognized by most of you as the crime syndicate portrayed in the famed Godfather movies. The Cosa Nostra effectively took control of Sicily by massacring all their rivals in the late 80s, before mounting the bombing of the state in 1992. 

Matteo was arrested at the clinic where he had been receiving chemotherapy for the past year using the false identity of Andrea Bonafede. Officers of the carabinieri’s Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale (ROS) found him there, not far from the historical center of Palermo, and less than a kilometer away from an anti-mafia investigation office. 

Prior the only photo of the mafia lord was a flashy man in his 30s taken before his life on the run began in 1993. That image “drastically changed” into that of a frail figure, wrapped in a winter jacket and surrounded by the ROS, slowly going down the steps of a hospital and disappearing into a police vehicle. 

Messina Denaro’s name is closely associated with the Corleone clan, a branch of the Sicilian mafia which, after beating its opponents in Sicily had declared war on Italia in the early 1990s. Led by Salvatore Riina, Mr. Messina Denaro’s mentor, the Corleone clan was declared responsible for a campaign of murderous terrorist violence against the state of Sicily. He is also known to have been involved in the fatal 1993 Florence, Rome and Milan bombings that killed a dozen people. Thanks to powerful connections however, the mafia boss managed to fly under the radars for three decades during which he was able to increase Sicilian organized crime’s hold on the legal economy.  

Authorities did not say what he was being treated for, but he was captured at La Maddalena clinic in Palermo, an upscale medical facility with a reputation for treating cancer patients, and Italian media said he has been undergoing treatment for a year. 

During an evening news conference, authorities said Messina Denaro’s treatment could continue at a hospital prison ward. With events of this all unfolding yesterday (time written) it’s hard to say what will become of the Mafia lord aside from his lifetime sentence but what can be deduced is that the Cosa Nostra has taken a fatal blow.