Skip to content

Mafia Boss Arrested in Sicily After Decade-Long InvestigationAgainst the Cosa Nostra

Finaliza una década de golpes a jefes mafioso con detención de Messina Denaro, EFE

Leer en Español

The arrest on Monday of Matteo Messina Denaro, considered the “boss of bosses” of the Cosa Nostra, the mafia of Sicily (southern Italy), and the country’s most wanted criminal, a fugitive from justice for 30 years, is the latest and most prominent of the numerous operations against mafia bosses in the last decade.

In September, the carabinieri had dealt a major blow to the network hiding Messina Denaro with the arrest of 35 of its members in an operation centered in the Sicilian province of Trapani, the same province where the mafia boss was born 60 years ago.

That investigation started with the release from prison three years ago of Francesco Luppino, considered one of the men closest to Messina Denaro and who rewove his network of relationships by receiving direct communications from the mafia boss from his unknown whereabouts.

A couple of months earlier, on July 6, 2022, Rocco Morabito, considered one of the heads of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, and the second most wanted criminal in the country after Messina Denaro, arrived extradited to Italy from Brazil.

Morabito, known as the “cocaine king of Milan” during the 1990s, had been arrested in Montevideo in 2017, but went on the run in 2019. In May 2021 he was again apprehended in a motel in the Brazilian city of Joao Pessoa along with Vincenzo Pasquino, also included in the list of most wanted criminals.

In December 2021, Spanish police captured in Galapagar (Madrid) Gioacchino Gammino, a “Stidda” mafia boss and one of the 20 most dangerous fugitives in Italy, who had been wanted for 20 years.

With the capture of the "boss of bosses" ends a decade of blows to the Costa Nostra, EFE
Matteo Messina Denaro, Italy’s most wanted man, was arrested in Palermo, Sicily, by the Carabinieri police ROS unit after 30 years on the run, on Jan. 16, 2023. (EFE)

In June 2020, Italian police arrested 13 members of the Castellammare del Golfo mafia family in Trapani, including capo Francesco Domingo, a figure also very close to Matteo Messina Denaro and who had been at large since 2015 after serving a 19-year sentence for mafia association.

On March 2, 2019, Italian authorities apprehended in an apartment in the neighborhood of Chiaiano, on the northern outskirts of Naples, one of the bosses of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, Marco Di Lauro, a fugitive since 2004 and at the time of his arrest second on the most wanted list. The fourth son of Camorra boss Paolo Di Lauro, “‘o milionario,” was sentenced to several life sentences for his crimes for the control of Scampia and Secondigliano.

On December 4, 2018 the Carabinieri of Palermo, in Sicily, arrested 46 people accused of Mafia association, among them the considered head of Cosa Nostra, Settimio Mineo, 80, who according to investigators had taken the reins of the organization after the death of Toto Riina and the absence of Messina Denaro.

Eight months earlier, in April 2018, 21 other people were arrested in Trapani accused of belonging to the mafia network of the “capo” Messina Denaro. In the operation, it was discovered how he directed the mafia activities from various hideouts through the so-called “pizzini”, pieces of paper that are passed from hand to hand.

In January 2018, Spanish police captured in Alicante the historic Italian mobster Fausto Pellegrinetti, leader of the Roman gang of “La Magliana” and on the run since 1993.