|Corleone|  Matteo Messina Denaro

Born:  April 26, 1962 - Castelvetrano

Dead:  /

Matteo Messina Denaro is considered to be the head, or Boss of Bosses, of the Sicilian Mafia since the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano in 2006. He is on Italy's most wanted list since 1993.

Mafia background

Matteo Messina Denaro was born in 1962 in Castelvetrano, a town in the province of Trapani. He was born into a Mafia related family. His father Francesco Messina Denaro was the boss of the Castelvetrano clan and capo mandamento of the Trapani region. Matteo was teached into Mafia business and committed his first murder at the age of 18. He is estimated to have killed at least 50 people. "I filled a cemetery all by myself," he once bragged. He made a reputation by murdering rival boss Vincenzo Milazzo from Alcamo and strangling Milazzo’s three-months pregnant girlfriend.

His father Francesco 'Don Ciccio' Messina Denaro started as a campiere (armed guard) of the D’Ali family, wealthy landowners who were among the founders of the Banco Sicula. He became the fattore (overseer of an estate) of the D’Ali land holdings. They handed over a significant estate in the area Zangara (Castelvetrano) to Messina Denaro. However, the real new owner turned out to be Salvatore Riina, with whom Messina Denaro was allied.

Antonio D'Ali sr. had to resign from the board of the Banco Sicula in 1983 because he appeared on the list of the secret freemason lodge Propaganda Due (P2) of Licio Gelli. His son Antonio D'Ali jr. became a senator for Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party in 1996, and in April 2001 under-secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, the institution responsible for fighting organised crime. His cousin Giacomo D’Ali is a counsellor of the Banca Commerciale Italiana (Comit) in Milan, which acquired the Banca Sicula in 1991. Matteo’s brother Salvatore Messina Denaro, arrested in November 1998, worked at the Banca Sicula and continued to work for Comit.

Mafia activity

Matteo Messina Denaro After the natural death of his father in November 1998, Matteo became capo mandamento of the area including Castelvetrano and the neighbouring cities, while Vincenzo Virga ruled in the city of Trapani and its surroundings. After the arrest of Virga in 2001, Messina Denaro took over the leadership of the Mafia in the province of Trapani. He commands some 900 men-of-honour and apparently reorganised the 20 Mafia families in Trapani into one single mandamento separated from the rest of Cosa Nostra. The Trapani Mafia is considered the zoccolo duro (solid pedestal) of Cosa Nostra and the most powerful except for the families in Palermo.

Messina Denaro gets his money through an extensive extortion racket forcing businesses to pay a pizzo (protection money) and skimming off public construction contracts (the family owns substantial sand quarries.) He is also active in the international drug trade, allegedly with the Cuntrera-Caruana clan, attracting attention of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to the Direzione distrettuale antimafia (DDA) of Palermo, he maintains contacts with relatives in New York and with Vito Roberto Palazzolo, a fugitive Mafia boss in South Africa. He also has interests in Venezuela and contacts with Colombian drug trafficking cartels as well as the 'Ndrangheta. His illicit networks extend to Belgium and Germany.

Matteo Messina Denaro has strong links with Mafia families in Palermo, in particular in Brancaccio, territory of the Graviano Family. Filippo Guttadauro the brother of the Giuseppe Guttadauro – the regent of the Brancaccio Mafia while Giuseppe Graviano and Filippo Graviano are in jail – is the brother-in-law of Messina Denaro. Both are involved in cocaine trafficking in agreement with ‘Ndrangheta clans.

The 1993 bombings

After the bomb-attacks in Capaci and Via D’Amelia that killed the prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the arrest of Salvatore Riina on January 15, 1993 and the introduction of strict prison regime (article 41 bis) Cosa Nostra embarked on a terrorist campaign, in which Matteo Messina Denaro played a prominent role.

The remaining Mafia bosses, among them Matteo Messina Denaro, Giovanni Brusca, Leoluca Bagarella, Antonino Gioè, Giuseppe Graviano and Gioacchino La Barbera came together a few times (often in the Santa Flavia area in Bagheria, on an estate owned by the mafioso Leonardo Greco). They decided on a strategy to force the Italian state to retreat. That resulted in a series of bomb attacks in the Via dei Georgofili in Florence, in Via Palestro in Milan and in the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and Via San Teodoro in Rome, which left 10 people dead and 93 injured as well as damage to centres of cultural heritage such as the Uffizi Gallery.

Messina Denaro also tailed the TV-journalist Maurizio Costanzo, host of the Maurizio Costanzo Show, who just escaped a car-bomb attack on May 14, 1993. Apparently he also observed the movements of Giovanni Falcone and the Minister of Justice, Claudio Martelli, in 1991. After the 1993 bombings Messina Denaro went into hiding and has not been seen since. On May 6, 2002, he received a life-time sentence (in absentia) for his role in the terrorist attacks of 1993.

In June 2000, a law enforcement operation led to the arrest of several individuals who assisted the fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro and discovered two residences where he had found shelter. One of this residences was located in an area of the city of Bagheria (in the province of Palermo), while the other was in the Brancaccio area of Palermo. Since one of the main rules within the Mafia is that a fugitive should hide in a friendly area, there is reason to believe that Messina Denaro has a good relationship to both Provenzano and the Graviano’s.

Possible successor of Provenzano

After the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano on April 11, 2006, Matteo Messina Denaro is often mentioned as his successor. His main rivals were supposed to be Salvatore Lo Piccolo – boss of the mandamento of San Lorenzo in Palermo, recently arrested on the 5th of November, 2007 – and Mimmo Raccuglia from Altofonte. Allegedly Provenzano nominated Messina Denaro in one of his pizzini – small slips of paper used to communicate with other mafiosi to avoid phone conversations.

This presupposes that Provenzano has the power to nominate a successor, which is not unanimously accepted among Mafia observers. "The Mafia today is more of a federation and less of an authoritarian state," according to anti-Mafia prosecutor Antonio Ingroia of the Direzione distrettuale antimafia (DDA) of Palermo, referring to the previous period of authoritarian rule under Salvatore Riina. Provenzano "established a kind of directorate of about four to seven people who met very infrequently, only when necessary, when there were strategic decisions to make."

According to Ingroia "in an organization like the Mafia, a boss has to be one step above the others otherwise it all falls apart. It all depends on if he can manage consensus and if the others agree or rebel." Provenzano "guaranteed a measure of stability because he had the authority to quash internal disputes." According to Sergio Lari, deputy chief prosecutor of Palermo: "Either the directorate can choose a successor or we could again be in for a fiery time."

Ingroia said that it was unlikely that there would be an all-out war over who would fill Provenzano's shoes. "Right now I don't think that's probable," he said. Of the two possible successors, Ingroia thought Lo Piccolo was the more likely heir to the Mafia throne. "He's from Palermo, and that's still the most powerful Mafia stronghold," Ingroia said.

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