Italy’s most-wanted man, Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, was arrested Monday after three decades on the run.
He was apprehended in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, Italy’s Carabinieri police division said.
Messina Denaro, a convicted murderer who has eluded authorities 30 years, is thought to be the leader of the notorious Cosa Nostra organized crime group.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement that the arrest was “a great victory for the state that shows it never gives up in the face of the Mafia.”
Gen. Pasquale Angelosanto, who leads the Carabinieri’s special operations squad, said Messina Denaro was arrested at a private clinic in Palermo where he was being treated for an unspecified medical issue.
A picture released by police early Monday showed Messina Denaro in a police car — visibly older than in his 1990s mugshots — alongside two officers.
Police warned in September last year that despite his low profile, Messina Denaro could still issue commands to organized crime groups around the western Sicilian city of Trapani.
He was sentenced to life in prison — at a trial he did not attend — for his part in the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992.
He faces a further life sentence for involvement in bomb attacks in Rome, Florence and and Milan in 1993.
The arrest marks the latest in a string of high-profile captures of Mafia bosses.
Last year Rocco Morabito, then the second most-wanted fugitive in Italy and a leader in the powerful ‘Ndrangheta Mafia group, was arrested in Brazil after 28 years on the run and extradited to Rome.
In 2006, police arrested Cosa Nostra boss Bernardo Provenzano, who police named as the “Capo di Capi,” or chief of chiefs, after a 43-year manhunt.
Italian prosecutors accuse Messina Denaro of helping to organize the kidnapping of 12-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo in 1993, in what they said was an attempt to dissuade his father from giving evidence against the mafia. The boy was held captive for two years before he was strangled and his body dissolved in acid, according to prosecutors.
Since Messina Denaro was placed on Italy’s wanted list in 1993, there has been global interest in his status, including a spectacular case of mistaken identity.
In September 2021, a British Formula One fan from Liverpool who was having dinner with his son at a restaurant in The Hague at the time, was mistakenly arrested by armed Dutch police officers at the request of the Italian authorities on suspicion of being the elusive mobster, the man’s lawyer told media outlets at the time.
Messina Denaro, who is thought to have orchestrated the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors, was also the subject of Netflix’s ‘World’s Most Wanted’ series.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Reuters, The Associated Press and Aina J. Khan contributed.