Wigs, hideouts, false papers… The tricks of the mafia on the run

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Wigs, hideouts, false papers… The tricks of the mafia on the run

Some Italian mafiosos take the tangent in the tropics, but most of the big fish stay in the country to continue to reign in the shadows.

The “hunter squadrons”, specialized units of the riflemen, relentlessly track down the bigwigs of organized crime who have gone underground in Sicily, in the Sardinian maquis or the mountains of Calabria.

It is there, in the heart of the towns or villages where they were born, that the bigwigs of organized crime are at the mercy of betrayal but under the protection of their cronies.

“Going to prison, for a mafioso, is a failure. The Mafioso wants to die in his bed, not in a cell,” specialized journalist Attilio Bolzoni told AFP.

Like before him the godfathers of the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, Matteo Messina Denaro, arrested Monday after 30 years on the run, was holed up on his island, a stone’s throw from his hometown of Castelvetrano.

False papers, wigs, surgical operations

The last living great Sicilian “capo” occupied a comfortable apartment, and according to the inhabitants of Campobello di Mazara, went out in broad daylight to have a coffee at the local bar, order a pizza, do his shopping… He was armed with false papers and pretended to be a doctor.

Others wear wigs, dress as women, undergo cosmetic operations. Cosa Nostra is now only a shadow of itself, beheaded by the state after the assassination of judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino for which Messina Denaro was sentenced to life imprisonment.

But for what remains, a godfather like him cannot command from a distance, except to take the risk of having his power challenged. He must remain among his men, at any cost.

Bunkers, furnished caches

Mafiosos on the run in Italy often hide in what are called “bunkers”: these are converted cellars, with bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, in the basements of individual houses or small buildings. It is accessed by hatches hidden under furniture, carpets, false floors, behind a mirror.

Their hosts are friends, associates, or family members who supply them regularly, with whom they play cards or celebrate Christmas under the nose and beard of the authorities. According to the Italian daily Il Corriere della Serainvestigators found condoms and boxes of Viagra in Messina Denaro’s hideout.

Others do not have this privilege, condemned to take refuge deep in the wooded countryside of southern Italy.

In 2016, two leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, were flushed out in a miserable “bunker” nestled in the mountain, among the trees, where they “lived like animals”, according to the expression of the public prosecutor. time, eating preserves, in precarious hygienic conditions.

Toto Riina, he, the boss of Corleone nicknamed “the beast” for his ferocity, lived in the center of Palermo until his arrest in 1993 in a “villa-bunker”. It now houses… A carabinieri barracks.

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