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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Lorenzo Tondo in Campobello di Mazara

Italian police find suspected ‘secret bunker’ of captured mafia boss

Carabinieri searching the apartment where investigators said they have found a secret bunker used by the Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro.
Carabinieri searching the apartment where investigators said they have found a secret bunker used by the Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Italian military police have found a possible secret bunker suspected of being used by Matteo Messina Denaro, the “last godfather” of the Sicilian mafia who was arrested on Monday after 30 years on the run.

The entrance to the bunker was concealed in a closet full of clothes in a house in Campobello di Mazara, a small town in Sicily where the apartment Denaro, 60, had been living in was discovered on Tuesday.

Investigators said they had found emeralds, diamonds and other gemstones, but they were also searching for documents believed to be in Denaro’s possession, in particular a “secret archive” of the Sicilian mafia’s “boss of bosses” Totò Riina, who died in 2017, which, according to some mafia informers, was stolen by Denaro and allegedly contains the secrets of the last 40 years of mafia killings.

Prosecutors believe Denaro holds the key to some of the most heinous crimes perpetrated by the Sicilian mafia, including the bomb attacks in 1992 that killed the anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and the killing in 1996 of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 12-year-old son of a mobster turned state witness who was strangled and dissolved in acid.

The street outside the apartment.
The street outside the apartment. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/the Guardian

Denaro was in 2002 convicted and sentenced in absentia to life in prison for having personally killed or ordered the murders of dozens of people.

Nicknamed Diabolik or U Siccu (the skinny one), Denaro was born in Castelvetrano, Sicily, in 1962. His father was a powerful Cosa Nostra boss and Denaro thrived in the family business, building an illicit multibillion-euro empire in the waste disposal, wind energy and retail sectors.

In order to protect themselves, mafia bosses in Italy are known for building escape tunnels under their houses, sophisticated bunkers in mountains that are reachable only on foot and hideouts in the woods for when they are on the run.

The function and size of the structure in Campobello di Mazara is not yet fully known. Denaro was arrested on Monday at a medical clinic in Palermo, where he was receiving treatment for a tumour.

The house, located in Via Maggiore Toselli, allegedly belongs to a man who was previously tried for mafia association and acquitted in 2001.

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