Posted on June 28, 2009
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Italian authorities are closing in on Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro (47). In one week, police in Italy and Venezuela arrested over a dozen men who are all being accused of helping Denaro run his criminal operations. By the end of the week even Denaro’s (photo on the right) most valuable drug contact had been put in handcuffs.
On Saturday June 20th a joint operation by Venezuelan and Italian police netted authorities Salvatore Miceli (63). Miceli was arrested late in the evening when he came out of a hotel in Caracas. He was listed as one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives, and, according to Italian police, is one of Europe’s top five drug traffickers. Miceli operated as a middle-man between South American drug cartels and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, and Sicilian Cosa Nostra. As such, he was of utmost value to the Italian Mafia groups. Especially to Matteo Messina Denaro, who is a big drug trafficker and rumored to be the new Sicilian “boss of bosses” since the arrests of Bernardo Provenzano and Salvatore Lo Piccolo.
On June 16, Italian police had already arrested thirteen men who are accused of carrying out Denaro’s orders and providing him with false passports and other documents. Most of the men were arrested in the Sicilian province Trapani, which is Denaro’s base of operations. "He's the last of the great fugitives," said Giuseppe Linares, the top police official in Trapani. "This operation strikes at his breeding ground and allows us to understand the essential structure" that is protecting him.
Denaro has been a fugitive for sixteen years. During those sixteen years, his reputation has grown to epic proportions. He once said that he had filled a cemetery all by himself. According to Italian magazine L’Espresso he committed his first murder at the age of eighteen and is currently a suspect in over fifty murders. It all came natural as he simply followed in his father’s footsteps.
The young boss is idolized by the new generation of Mafiosi, who respect his ruthlessness and charisma. It is widely believed that Denaro is not hiding out in a shanty barn like his predecessor Bernardo Provenzano (photo on the left) had done. Instead, Italian police found evidence that he had visited Austria, Greece, Spain, and Venezuela. These visits are alleged to have been part of his drug smuggling and money laundering operations. Though he is not all business. He is also a playboy, who enjoys beautiful women, fine wine, and fast cars. A big contrast with Provenzano who lived like a monk.
With these recent arrests Italian police are trying to break down Denaro’s support system, like they had done to Provenzano a few years ago. When the boss his soldiers are taken away, it forces the boss to come out of hiding to take care of business. Business he normally would have left in the hands of his underlings. As soon as Denaro steps out of the shadows, police will be waiting with a shiny pair of handcuffs.