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Italian authorities arrest Mafia boss after 30 years on the run

Italy arrested Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, the country’s most wanted fugitive, on Monday at a health clinic in Palermo, Sicily, after 30 years on the run, according to Italian paramilitary police.

Messina Denaro, 60, was apprehended at the clinic where he was receiving treatment for a medical condition, Carabinieri Gen. Pasquale Angelosanto, who heads the police force’s special operations squad, said in a statement.

Messina Denaro was seen in a photo released by police wearing a brown leather jacket, white skull cap and tinted glasses. He was transported to a secret location by police immediately after his arrest, Italian state television reported.

He was considered Sicily’s Cosa Nostra top boss even while a fugitive and had a power base in the port city of Trapani, in western Sicily. Messina Denaro was the last of three longtime fugitive top-level Mafia bosses who had evaded authorities for decades.

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Messina Denaro, who was convicted of dozens of murders, faces multiple life sentences.

He will be placed behind bars for two 1992 bombings in Sicily that killed top anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. He was also convicted of the murder of a Mafia turncoat’s young son. That boy was strangled, and his body was dissolved in acid.

His arrest on Monday came 30 years and a day after convicted boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina, was captured on Jan. 15, 1993, in a Palermo apartment after 23 years on the run. Messina Denaro went into hiding that summer as Italy looked to crack down on the Sicilian crime syndicate in response to the murders of Falcone and Borsellino.

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Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni wrote on Twitter that Messina Denaro’s capture is a “great victory of the state, which shows that it doesn’t surrender in the face of the Mafia.”

The Italian Mafia boss who set the record for the longest time on the lam was Bernardo Provenzano. He was captured in a farmhouse near Corleone, Sicily, in 2006 after 38 years as a fugitive. After Provenzano’s apprehension, authorities centered their attention on Messina Denaro. 

There had been multiple reported sightings of Messina Denaro, but he was not taken into police custody until Monday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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