ONE of Italy’s most feared mobsters, and leader of the mafia clan that inspired The Godfather, has been arrested in a daring raid.
Matteo Messina Denaro, who fronted up the notorious Sicilian “Cosa Nostra” group, was seized by cops after 30 years as Italy’s most wanted mafia don.
Police say the 60-year-old, known as “The Boss of Bosses”, was taken during a visit to a private medical clinic in Sicily’s largest city Palermo.
Astonishing video shows crowds applauding and cheering the Carabinieri police in the streets of Palermo following the arrest of Italy’s top mafia boss after 30 years on the run.
A frail-looking Denaro has also been pictured in the back of a police car alongside an armed cop being led away.
He is believed to be behind the murders of two anti-mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992.
Denaro is also facing a life sentence for his role in bomb attacks which killed ten people in Florence, Milan, and Rome the following year.
Because of his savage crimes, Denaro is believed to have given himself the nickname “The Devil”.
Last September, Italy’s Carabinieri police force claimed the mafia don was still in charge and issuing commands from his regional stronghold in the western Sicilian city of Trapani.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has thanked the police for the capture of the country’s most-wanted gangster.
The recently-elected leader wrote on Twitter: “My warmest thanks, together with those of the whole government, go to the police forces, and in particular to the Ros dei Carabinieri, to the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office and to the Palermo Public Prosecutor’s Office for the capture of the most significant exponent of mafia crime.”
She added: “The prevention and fight against mafia crime, as evidenced by the fact that the first measure of the Executive concerned the harsh penitentiary regime for mafiosi, will continue to be an absolute priority of this government.”
Denaro’s last confirmed sighting was in August 1993 when he was spotted with two friends holidaying in Forte dei Marmi in the northern Italian region of Tuscany.
Born in 1963 in Castelvetrano, Sicily, Denaro once wrote in a letter that his biggest regret was not finishing school.
In a letter written by the feared don and later discovered by police in 2015, he said: “My greatest anger stems from the fact that I was a good student, only that I was distracted by something else.”
His father, Francesco, Don Ciccio, was the mafia boss of Castelvetrano and had a close alliance with the Corleones of Toto Riina, the most-dominant mafia clan of the 1980s and 90s.
Aged just 20, Denaro followed his father into the mob, working with the Corleones to crush two rebellious mafia families.
He was known for his flashy lifestyle, driving a Porsche, dressing in Armani suits, and wearing a Rolex Daytona watch.
All this was despite the fact that he bragged about claiming unemployment benefits from the Italian state.
The prevention and fight against mafia crime… will continue to be an absolute priority of this government
After a police commissioner in Castelvetrano, Rino Germana began investigating Denaro, he decided to have the cop killed.
He followed the inspector in his car, shooting at him and forcing him to jump into the sea to escape.
The officer survived only because the Kalashnikov of one of Denaro’s henchmen jammed as he tried to fire.
Money for Denaro’s crime syndicate came from running protection rackets, as well as illegal waste disposal, money laundering, and drug trafficking.
Denaro’s empire of influence stretched as far as South America, and he was also reportedly the man who decided who should be killed by the mob.
He was also behind the choosing of targets in Florence, Milan and Rome which were targeted during a Cosa Nostra-led campaign of terror against the Italian state in the early 90s which left ten people dead.
Other acts of horrific savagery allegedly planned by Denaro were carried out on the innocent relatives of rival mobsters.
Denaro is believed to have ordered the hit on Antonella Bonomo, the fiancee of Alcamo mafia boss Vincenzo Milazzo, who had been very critical of the Corleones.
Bonomo, who was three months pregnant at the time, drowned in the killing on July 15, 1992.
Denaro also authorised the kidnapping and murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 13-year-old son of a mobster who had repented and started working for the authorities.
Cosa Nostra, which is Italian for “Our Thing”, is the traditional name used by the mafia to refer to themselves.
The classic 1972 film “The Godfather” and its subsequent sequels were largely based on the actions of the Sicilian mafia, although the words “mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” never appear in them.