PALERMO, Italy, 25 january (Reuters) – Salvatore Catalano felt bad when he learned that Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro lived a short distance from his home in the western Sicilian town of Campobello di Mazara.
Catalan’s brother Agostino died in the 1992 bombing that killed anti-mafia judge Paolo Borsellino. the police was – prosecutors say Messina Denaro helped organize the attack.
“Now that I know he’s here, I have anger in my heart and soul and I don’t know him,” Catalano told Reuters.
Messina Denaro, 60, on January 16 after 30 years on the run imprisonment was done. Police is believed to have spent most of the past year hiding in plain sight in Campobello di Mazara, a town of about 11,000 residents, not far from his mother’s home.
“We celebrated the arrest together with my family. He is in jail and now hard imprisonment will follow the rules,” Catalano said.
The last confirmed sighting of Messina Denaro was in 1993, making it difficult for police to identify Italy’s most wanted man. Authorities say he lives an open life in the city, shopping for himself at the local supermarket.
Prosecutors say the unusually strong loyalty he received from members of his tribe in western Sicily made their hunt all the more difficult.
Reuters interviewed dozens of residents on the streets of Campobello and his nearby hometown of Castelvetrano, as well as prosecutors and police who helped find him.
They revealed the struggle investigators faced as they tried to break the wall of “omerta,” or code of silence, of a mafia that had disbanded elsewhere in Sicily but still stood firm around Messina Denaro, according to the Italian press. the last godfather”.
1996-20Prosecutor Roberto Piscitello, who tried to seize Messina Denaro in 2008, “I have at least one connection with him. 200 people imprisonment i did “Only one of them decided to cooperate with justice,” he said.
“Those arrested in the nearby provinces of Palermo and Agrigento 10five of them become spinners,” he told Reuters from his home in Marsala, western Sicily.
In the end, it was not Messina Denaro’s colleagues who betrayed him, but his failing body.
Police Messina says they were able to catch Denaro after relatives learned he had cancer through wiretapping.
They had long suspected that he lived in his native Sicily, and a thorough check of cancer patients in the region revealed that a man named Andrea Bonafede had undergone surgery in the western town of Mazara del Vallo, and his cell phone was also activated. another part of the island.
Investigators said it was the “first significant confirmation” that Messina Denaro could be hiding under this fake identity, seen by Reuters. court he showed his documents because it showed that the man who did the operation was not the real Andrea Bonafede who was supposed to be with him. telephone.
They admitted the patient and learned that he would receive routine chemotherapy treatment on January 16 in Palermo, the island’s capital.
The police surrounded the clinic and attacked the patient after he arrived. He immediately admitted his true identity, however crime dashed any hopes he had of spilling the beans on his life.
“I have a code of honor,” a law enforcement source said when he first met the magistrate, referring to the Sicilian Mafia’s highly degraded management over the past 30 years, telling him not to speak about the organization to anyone outside.
His silence means investigators must try to piece together how he managed to avoid detection over the years.
The initial focus of their investigation was the real Andrea Bonafede, a trained investigator with no criminal record.
Prosecutors said Bonafede Messina confirmed that he had known Denaro since his youth and admitted to the mafia that he had bought an apartment in Campobello di Mazara. He is also in prison and has not made any statement regarding this case.
Police are also investigating his driver, olive farmer Giovanni Luppino. He was holding a circuit breaker and had switched off two of his mobile phones in what magistrates said was an attempt to avoid being tracked.
He denied knowing the true identity of his passenger.
Palermo Prosecutor General Maurizio de Lucia told Reuters that people like Bonafede represent the “first link” of a refugee’s matrix – those who provide for his basic needs.
But he believes his support network runs deep.
“His land helped him for many years. It is reasonable to think that it is protected by professionals, entrepreneurs,” he said.
His doctor, Alfonso Tumbarello, is among those already under investigation for allegedly aiding and abetting the director. His lawyer said that he is confident that his client can prove his innocence.
The judges said that they had seen the Messina Denaro over the years in Spain, Greece and to Austria trip found evidence that he did. However, the main focus of his business activities remained in western Sicily, meaning that he probably spent most of his time on the island.
Dozens of low-level mobsters have been arrested in the region over the years — Messina said the weakening of Denaro’s inner circle has repeatedly cut off promising bosses who the judges hope will one day lead them to the boss.
“(But) we justice sacrifice we could not give. We could not leave mobsters on the streets,” said Paolo Guido, the prosecutor who has been hunting the boss for a long time in recent years, to Reuters.
Prosecutors said the mob boss had developed extensive financial interests that went far beyond traditional mobster concerns and helped him build a loyal network of white-collar professionals.
A secret prison recording from 2013 shows ex-boss Salvatore “Hell” Riina’s one-time protégé investing in renewable energy projects rather than focusing on hard-line mafia activities complaint revealed what he did.
Col. Antonello Parasiliti Molica, who heads the anti-crime unit of the Carabinieri special forces in Palermo, said: “In the Sicilian context, those who believe in the possibility of creating jobs and doing business get consensus, protection.”
Written by Angelo Amante; Edited by Crispian Balmer and Ross Colvin
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Source – reuters