Murders & Mafia: Is Italy’s Matteo Messina Denaro Thriller Yet To Reach Climax?

Arrested in Sicily on 16 January after being on run for 30 years, Denaro's many secrets still remain undiscovered.

5 min read
Murders & Mafia: Is Italy’s Matteo Messina Denaro Thriller Yet To Reach Climax?

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Could be a movie, but it is not. A huge portrait, a painting depicting Marlon Brando in his Don Vito Corelone's role. A man wearing expensive shirts and even more expensive watches, driven around in expensive cars by an old childhood friend who now swears he did not know who his passenger was.

A middle-aged caring and kind gentleman always nice to his chemotherapy co-patients and to the hospital staff, sending them every now and then, olive oil from Castelvetrano— his birth town.

Matteo Messina Denaro was the latest boss of the 'cupola'—the mafia highest ranks from 90s, to be still on the run for more than thirty years, hiding in full sight and living in his birthplace while police searched for him everywhere in the world.

They say that at the moment of his arrest, in a clinic where Messina Denaro was undergoing chemotherapy for a two-year-old cancer diagnosis, he was dressed and looking like Michel Corleone in Godfather part III.

Items Retrieved From Sicily’s Most Ruthless Crime Bosses

The story goes on with the discovery of his hiding places. Messina Denaro was very neat, it seems.

At 31 Cb Street, he had a series of carpettes in which he arranged notes and documents. There is a real treasure in the den where the Ros carabinieri raided. Investigators found a kind of ledger, a notebook with lots of notes and figures, also dating back to 2016.

Plus, phone numbers, the boss wanted since June 1993, jotted down on slips of paper and post-it notes. Investigators are also at work in the other hiding place discovered in Campobello di Mazara, a bunker room inside the apartment on Via Maggiore Toselli, a short distance from Via Cb 31.

There, carabinieri and financiers found jewellery, precious stones and pieces of silverware, about 40 items in all. His immense wealth came from his investments in energy and refuse, successfully infiltrating local government to get control of important building contracts.

Five billion in assets seized from his front men and a treasure still hidden who knows where, with traces leading to Switzerland, South America and some as always, just a few kilometers away from Castelvetrano.

Matteo Messina Denaro, as the investigative notes tell, has had a different problem in recent years than the traditional image of mafia bosses. Not so much about increasing his own capital through illicit trafficking. But to launder the treasure he earned at the turn of the 1960s and 1990s, and which was to continue to pay off.

Could be a movie but again, it is not. Messina Denaro, let's get it straight, is not Micheal Corleone and it is better to clear the path from any attempt of romanticise his features. Messina Denaro is the man who used to boast “I filled a cemetery by myself."

The man who kidnapped and then murdered an 11-year-old boy Giuseppe Di Matteo, to pressure his father. Messina Denaro was Toto Riina's golden boy. And Toto Riina, for those who do not know him, was the boss of the bosses of the Cupola: a man nicknamed as 'The Beast' by his followers.

Messina Denaro, along with Riina, was the main character of the massacres that bloodied Italy in the early 90s.


Matteo's 'Bloody' Deeds

And again, looks like a movie but it is not. Castelvetrano, October 1991.

Totò Riina has let his protégé Matteo, know that a meeting must be called as soon as possible. The young godfather then 29-years-old, does not let this to be repeated. A few days later, in a beautiful villa in his hometown, he does the honours and dispenses hugs.

Riina is beaming. "The time has come," he says. The moment to kill the anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone who works at the Ministry of Justice in Rome. In this villa chosen by Matteo Messina Denaro, the 1992 massacre strategy begins.

Giovanni Falcone is killed along with his wife Francesca Morvillo and three men of his escort. After Falcone, a month later, his friend and co-worker judge Paolo Borsellino was killed in front of his mother's house with five members of his escort.

One of them was a girl, Emanuela Loi: the first member of Italian Police to be part of an escort and the first one to be killed in service. She was 25.

After the arrest of Toto Riina on 1 April 1993, Messina Denaro and other members of the so-called 'Corleonesi' clan gathered in a small villa in Santa Flavia, a stone's throw from Bagheria.

They decided to follow the line drawn by Riina, but this time they targeted places of cultural and touristic importance on the mainland – in Milan, Florence and Rome. After the bombs, some of the members of mafia now collaborating with police, recalls that Messina Denaro and his men met again at Euromare village in Campofelice di Roccella.

That day Senator Vincenzo Inzerillo, close to another mafia family for which he would later be convicted, arrived. "He came to say that nothing was concluded with massacres and that we must act in another way," Messina Denaro tells the mafia guy on his way home.

"He proposed that we could rather engage in the establishment of a new political party”. Italy is still waiting for far too many answers.


After Three Deacdes of Hunt, Matteo Remains an ‘Unsolved Mystery’

Who gave the order to Riina and Messina Denaro to kill Falcone and Borsellino, and facilitated the murder of two judges under heavy protection? And where is Borsellino's 'red journal' that disappeared from his leather case, the one he was always carrying with him? How did Messina Denaro decide where to strike and when? Thirty years of investigations have failed to answer.

Those bombs and those killings were a blackmail to the State, part of a refined strategy of terror. Who suggested the targets and why? Tommaso Buscetta, the mafia Don who first started to talk to Giovanni Falcone and to disclose the secrets of the organisation, always said the real bosses, the mandators of killings and strategies, were in Rome.

Matteo Messina Denaro has been arrested, but the Riina's archive, the one he was absconding, has not been found yet like Borsellino's journal. And Italy is still waiting for answers.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Italy   The Godfather   Mafia 

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