This “World in Photos” takes us to Sicily and the arrest of Italy’s most wanted fugitive, the 60-year-old mobster Matteo Messina Denaro. His capture is being hailed as a major blow against the Mafia; it’s also a reminder that the mob’s power and influence persist, decades after Messina Denaro’s most infamous crimes.
He was arrested Monday near the Maddalena Clinic in Palermo, where police said he had traveled under an alias for treatment. He was a boss in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra family, and the last figure tied to an era when the so-called black hand of Sicilian organized crime had taken brutal aim at the Italian government. He stood accused of dozens of murders in the 1990s, including the strangling of a 12-year-old boy whose father was a Mafia turncoat. He also was implicated in the killings of two top anti-Mafia prosecutors.
For decades, Italian police had worked the Messina Denaro case without a reliable photograph of the man. On Monday, Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Maurizio DeLucia, told reporters that “before this morning, we didn’t even know what face he had.” They wound up tracking him based on information about the cancer treatments he was undergoing at the Palermo clinic.
The Cosa Nostra are just one of several organized crime syndicates still operating in Italy, though many of its leaders have been jailed over the years. As Lirio Abbate, a Sicilian journalist who wrote a book about Messina Denaro, put it to the New York Times, “His arrest certainly weakens the Sicilian mafia, but this is not a fatal blow … it keeps regenerating.” DeLucia, the prosecutor, said, “It would be a big mistake to think that the game is over.”
The photos here include the first images of Messina Denaro after the arrest, the passion surrounding his capture and some of the relevant history — dating to the Sicilian mob bosses in 1930s New York and the capture of the so-called boss of bosses Salvatore Riina 30 years ago. Also seen here, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who descended on Palermo to cheer the arrest and thank the anti-Mafia police units that were involved in what she called “a hard blow to organized crime.”