On August 5, Netflix released a new five-episode true crime docu-series focusing on five notorious criminals and fugitives, World’s Most Wanted. One of the episodes focuses on the hunt for Matteo Messina Denaro, an Italian mafia boss widely believed to be the boss of all bosses after the arrest or deaths of other Sicilian mafia leaders.
The business magazine Forbes began a list of the world’s 10 most wanted fugitives in 2008, which was created each year in consultation with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and the rest of the world. The magazine picked fugitives that have been criminally charged or convicted, have long backgrounds in crime and who are “considered a menace to the world.” The 58-year-old Denaro has been included on the list of the world’s 10 most wanted fugitives every year since he has evaded capture.
Who is Matteo Messina Denaro and where is he today?
Denaro Is Seen as the Leader of the Sicilian Mafia & Has Been a Fugitive Since 1993, Evading Capture for Over 25 Years
Denaro was born on April 26, 1962, in Castelvetrano, a town in Sicily, Italy. It’s a town of just over 30,000 people located in the province of Trapani. A Wanted poster from the Italian government states that he has been a fugitive since 1993 for associations with the mafia, homicide, grievous bodily injury, and more. He is also listed on the Europol website as one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives, which indicates that he’s been convicted to prison for life. The poster reads, “As one of the [bosses] of the Italian mafia-type [conspiracy] named ‘Cosa Nostra,’ he committed several serious and brutal [murders] and took park in slaughters and fire arms [offenses].”
Cosa Nostra is another name for the Sicilian mafia, often used by its members, and meaning “our thing” in Italian. Denaro has been wanted since 1993 when he took part in the Casa Nostra terror campaign against the government’s mafia crackdown. He was believed to be one of the leaders responsible for masterminding bomb attacks in various Italian cities that caused 10 deaths and 93 injuries. In June 1993, he went into hiding.
Denaro managed to avoid capture for decades despite police turning up the pressure on the Italian mafia and finding and arresting key figures in the organization. In 2011, Forbes wrote that there is no doubt Denaro is the leader of the Italian mafia in light of the arrests of other leaders like Bernardo Provenzano.
There Has Only Been One Known Sighting of Denaro in the Last 20 Years & There Are a Lot of Unknowns About His Life
Denaro is considered to be different than traditional mafia figures in that he is known for living a luxurious lifestyle, driving fast cars, womanizing and dressing in expensive designer clothes. His nickname is “Diabolic,” although he’s also sometimes referred to as the Italian mafia playboy. The nickname Diabolic comes from a notorious criminal in Italian comic books.
According to the Guardian’s 2014 profile on Denaro, whose last name means “money” in Italian, Denaro has maintained his lavish lifestyle in hiding, with a rotating cast of lovers causing police to attempt to “follow the women” in order to capture him. The Guardian writes that Denaro describes himself as “philosopher, folk hero and serial seducer.”
In late 2013, the police narrowed in on Denaro, capturing dozens of his collaborators, including his sister Patrizia. In retaliation, Denaro was said to be planning a bomb attack on the magistrate in charge of the search, Teresa Principato. Principato described Denaro as living a “golden lifestyle” different from traditional mafia bosses. He grew up in a farming town but stood out for “driving a convertible, dressing in Versace, Armani and sporting his Rolex Daytona watch.”
Authorities believe that Denaro is in hiding near his hometown of Castelvetrano, his center of power. Since the mid-1990s, Denaro is thought to have moved frequently between different villas and apartments set up by collaborators, always staying close to people and his hometown. He began a lengthy correspondence with Antonino Vaccarino, who shared the notes he received with Italian secret services. Vaccarino said that they discussed religion, philosophy and family before the correspondence ended when Denaro discovered Vaccarino’s betrayal.
In 2019, a businessman named Vito Nicastri was sentenced to nine years for his financial support of Denaro. At the time, investigators continued to state their belief that Denaro is in hiding in Trapani, near Castelvetrano, where he is being protected by Freemasons.
There are no photographs of the mafia boss since he has not been sighted in over 20 years. One informant told authorities that he saw Denaro and described him for a computer-simulated photo. The only other photos available are computer-generated age-progression photographs based. Denaro is believed to have issues with his eyesight, having been treated in the early 1990s for a retina disease. Italian news agencies have speculated that he may now be blind in one eye.