Matteo Messina Denaro, Sicilian Cosa Nostra’s boss of bosses, has been on the run for 23 years, but despite recent arrests of those closest to him authorities are far removed from catching the fugitive crime lord.
When police in Castelvetrano, Sicily, charged businessman Rosario Firenze with various Mafia-related crimes yesterday, they hailed the arrest as another blow to Messina Denaro’s inner-circle. Firenze is alleged to be a close associate of the secretive boss and is said to have made him a lot of money, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Firenze’s arrest was the latest in a long sequence spanning several years in which authorities are trying to isolate Messina Denaro by pulling his closest confidantes off the streets. As recently as October, they charged 55-year-old Francesco Messina Denaro, a relative of the elusive Mafia boss who is also the Sicily-based purchaser for Diaverum Italia Srl, a company that manages dialysis centers, with medical fraud.
That same month, Messina Denaro’s 46-year-old sister Anna Patrizia was sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison in Palermo appeals court after she had already been found guilty of being an official “made” member of Cosa Nostra.
But surprisingly enough, the arrests did nothing to bring investigators any closer to Messina Denaro, a baffled prosecutor told the parliamentary anti-mafia commission last month.
“We've arrested almost all of Messina Denaro's blood relations - his sister, cousins, in-laws,” Palermo Prosecutor Teresa Maria Principato said. “I thought this might spark a reaction in the man, but he's not normal. He's very cold.”
Besides going after those closest to him, authorities also went after the mob boss’ money and property. Every so often, authorities seized several million in cash or real estate from the most wanted man in Europe. At one point, in April 2013, they even made the largest seizure in the history of Italy when they plucked Messina Denaro for a whopping €1.3 billion euros.
This tactic, too, was deemed to have a high probability for success in catching Messina Denaro, as it was aimed at his “deep attachment to money,” the prosecutor said.
Unfortunately, however, none of these tactics have worked. Matteo Messina Denaro, the 53-year-old Sicilian Mafia’s boss of bosses, hasn’t even been seen in public in over twenty years. Some fear he will remain like a ghost, controlling Sicily’s Mafia from the shadows for decades to come.
As the prosecutor pointed out so eloquently: “He’s not normal.”
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