Mafia “Superboss” 30 years on the run

Matteo Messina Denaro, the dreaded Italian mobster also known as “Diabolik” has been on the run from the police for over 30 years now. He was long considered to be the ‘Boss of Bosses’ of the Sicilian Mafia. His life resembles that of fictional mobster Tony Montana and he must have quite a story to tell.

Matteo Messina Denaro. Early photos and artist renderings

Matteo Messina Denaro. Early photos and artist renderings

The 58-year-old ruthless druglord still evades capture even though some of his associates have been captured in recent months. They are all awaiting trial and stand accused of having operated a drug ring, acting on behalf of Denaro.

More than one hundred specialist officers took part in these raids which also netted 3 high-profile associates. Antonio Messina – who is a drug dealer, Freemason, ex-lawyer, and Denaro’s close confidant was also arrested. Palermo specialist officers launched the operation during November and conducted several search operations. Over 100 tax authority officers and police took part.

In spite of his associates being caught, his massive network and sharp intellect have let him escape law enforcement for over 30 years.

In the 90s, after bystanders and magistrates were killed across Florence, Rome, and Sicily by a bombing campaign waged by the Sicilian mafia, Denaro went into hiding.

Last year, a billionaire wind farmer, Vito Nicastri nicknamed “The King of Wind” was put on trial and found guilty of bankrolling Denaro. Nicastri was sentenced to 9 years.

"The King of Wind" Vito Nicastri

“The King of Wind” Vito Nicastri

Denaro is accused of having committed more than 50 murders, as per the police. However, he considers his killings to be a mark of honor.

Teresa Principato, who works as the Palermo magistrate and was once the head of the team hunting Denaro stated that he was a ruthless and greedy human being. She stated that Denaro had a mix of both new and old ideas. Just like the previous generation, he believed the mafia to be an elite and superior institution that admitted only a few people who truly deserved the honor. However, he also has modern tastes. He’s known for fancy cars, watches, and clothes. He also has a reputation as a Playboy and supposedly has many illegitimate children.

A high-profile anti-mafia investigator stated that Denaro sincerely believes himself to be innocent and not a criminal. He has often boasted that he would be able to keep evading the police for the rest of his life.

Once, Denaro managed to give the slip to a major manhunt. He joined El Chapo in notoriety and was the second person on the list of the world’s 10 most wanted fugitives for a long time.

During the 90s, he executed Vicenzo Milazzo, a rival mob boss, and strangled his pregnant wife to death. He’s also widely believed to have abducted and murdered Giuseppe di Matteo, a child who was aged 11 at the time of death. Denaro abducted the boy, holding him in captivity for over 2 years in an attempt to prevent his father from providing testimony against the Italian mafia. The child was then strangled to death before being dissolved in acid.

Giuseppe Di Matteo was held captive for 2 years before being murdered

Giuseppe Di Matteo was held captive for 2 years before being murdered

These recent arrests aren’t the first time Denaro has lost close business allies. Back in 2014, the police arrested over 30 family members and affiliates, who were considered to be in his inner circle.

These people were charged with managing and funding the ‘postmen’ scheme, where they were used for smuggling notes from and to his hideouts. Patrizia Messina Denaro, his sister was also arrested and charged with channeling extorted money to fuel her brother’s travel habits.

Patrizia Messina Denaro

Patrizia Messina Denaro

Although the law has caught up with many of his family and associates, his influence remains undiminished. Investigators say Patrizia is happy, determined, and aggressive about using her surname for extortion purposes.

Denaro is said to have surveilled Giovanni Falcone, a judge who was killed in 1992 for his anti-mafia activities.

Alongside brutal hitman Giovanni Brusca – who boasted of single-handedly committing up to 200 murders – he helped to carry out a horrific bombing campaign across Florence, Milan, and Rome. 93 people were injured and ten people killed during the bombing attacks made on historic monuments. Even though Denaro had to start hiding, after that his reputation and his empire grew from strength to strength.

Giovanni Brusca being arrested. 1996

Giovanni Brusca being arrested. 1996

Francesco Garofalo, a member of the anti-mafia group Libera stated that the Internet and local grapevine were full of stories about how the government was taking away the jobs generated by the mafia. In fact, there are many people in town who would even like to appoint Denaro as mayor.

The crime boss avoids using the Internet and phone and uses handwritten notes (“Pizzini”) for communicating.

In 2017, over 200 mafia hunters called “Catturandi” searched for Denaro in caves and bunkers around Castelvetrano believing he could be hiding there and living a real fugitive lifestyle.

But just like every previous manhunt for him, they came up empty.