Mafia boss Messina Denaro evaded capture for 30 years with help from loyal clan and omerta code of silence.
The arrest of Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro on January 16, 2021 after 30 years on the run was celebrated by many in Italy. Denaro had been dubbed by the Italian press as “the last Godfather”. He had managed to stay hidden for so long due to the unusually strong loyalty he received from members of his clan in the west of Sicily and the Mafia’s code of silence, “omerta”.
Denaro was living near his mother in the western Sicilian town of Campobello di Mazara and was living an apparently open life. He shopped in the local supermarket, but no one recognized him.
Police managed to catch Denaro after learning from wiretaps of his relatives that he had cancer. They identified him as a patient named Andrea Bonafede who had surgery in the western city of Mazara del Vallo. They surrounded the clinic and pounced after the patient arrived for his appointment.
Denaro had built a wide array of financial interests that went far beyond traditional mafioso concerns, helping him set up a loyal network of white collar professionals. This helped him gain protection and consensus in the Sicilian context.
Denaro’s capture was a relief to many in Italy. His silence means investigators must try to piece together as best as they can how he managed to avoid detection through the years. Police are investigating those who provided for his basic needs and those who may have aided and abetted him. His arrest is a major victory in the fight against organized crime in Italy.