“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Police searched nearby houses after raiding his apartment, discovering a hidden bunker.

A second hideout used by Italy’s most wanted mobster Matteo Messina Denaro has been discovered at the back of a closet with a sliding base. The newly-discovered armored bunker is in an apartment about 330 yards from the Mafia boss’s primary hideout in the town of Campobello di Mazara, Sicily.

It was long suspected that he could be hiding inside of an isolated bunker at times, like other fugitive Mafiosi, especially ‘Ndrangheta leaders in Calabria, have in the past. The fact he was living in plain sight, under an assumed name surprised many.

The house, located in Via Maggiore Toselli, allegedly belongs to a man who was previously tried for mafia association and acquitted in 2001. The hidden escape bunker was meant as a hideout should police discover his apartment and attempt to arrest him. He did not plan for them to capture him at the clinic where he received chemotherapy treatments.

Police found no weapons in the first hideout, according to initial reports, but did discover luxury perfumes, expensive furniture, and designer clothes. He was living in an unassuming house in Campobello di Mazara, 116km (72 miles) from Palermo and just 8km from his birthplace of Castelvetrano.
His alias, Andrea Bonafede, aroused the suspicion of police when they realized it was the name of deceased Mafia boss Leonardo Bonafede’s nephew. Phone mapping showed the real Bonafede’s cellphone was not in Palermo in 2020 and 2021 when a man using that name had surgery in the city.

Many had assumed Monday’s arrest was the result of a tip-off by Messina Denaro’s associates, who decided the ailing boss was no longer useful to them.

Police dismissed the theory of a tip-off. Instead, they said they combined old-school investigative methods with modern technology to narrow down their suspects. They also had been targeting his collaborators, family members, and network of companies to weaken his protection and ability to remain hidden.

Denaro is “seriously ill”, a doctor at the health clinic said. “He is seriously ill. The disease has accelerated in recent months,” Vittorio Gebbia, head of the oncology department at La Maddalena clinic in Palermo stated.

He was heading to a cafe outside of the clinic noticing police were surrounding the area. When a policeman approached and asked him his name. He did not lie.

“You know who I am. I am Matteo Messina Denaro.” he said.

Denaro was not present for his first court hearing, which was scheduled to take place via video conference from the prison where he is being held. This was due to his receiving his first chemo treatment behind bars. The hearing has been postponed until March 9.