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MAFIA

Italian mafia boss Messina Denaro ‘seriously ill’ following arrest

Doctors at the clinic where Italy's most-wanted fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro was captured said on Wednesday his health had recently deteriorated.

Italian mafia boss Messina Denaro 'seriously ill' following arrest
The Maddalena private clinic in Palermo where police arrested Matteo Messina Denaro after 30 years on the run. (Photo by Alessandro FUCARINI / AFP)

Messina Denaro, 60, a convicted killer known for a long series of brutal crimes, was caught during a visit to the clinic on Monday after 30 years on the run, after being forced to seek treatment for cancer.

“He is seriously ill. The disease has accelerated in recent months,” Vittorio Gebbia, head of the oncology department at the Maddalena clinic in Palermo, told newspaper La Repubblica.

READ ALSO: How Italy caught ‘most wanted’ mafia boss after 30 years

He underwent surgery for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under a false name, according to leaked medical records published in Italian media.

He was detained on Monday after detectives discovered through wiretapped conversations with family members that he was ill, and searched Italy for possible suspects of the right gender and age with cancer.

The law enforcement officers checked with Gebbia whether Messina Denaro needed urgent treatment.

“The police asked me if it mattered if the chemotherapy cycle he was set to receive was delayed by a few days, and I signed off on it because such a small delay will have no effect,” Gebbia said.

PROFILE: Ruthless Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro’s reign of terror

Messina Denaro was moved shortly after his arrest in Palermo to a high security prison in L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region, where he was being held in solitary confinement.

He was expected to be taken for chemotherapy treatment at the San Salvatore hospital in L’Aquila, which has a special unit reserved for this type of prisoner, according to reports in Corriere della Sera.

Messina Denaro was caught close to home after three decades on the run from police.

This is not unusual among Italy’s mafia fugitives, experts say, as on home turf they enjoy better protection and can continue to reign from the shadows.

“Going to state prison means failure for a mafioso. The mafioso wants to die in his own bed, not behind bars,” Italian journalist Attilio Bolzoni, a specialist on Italy’s criminal underworld, told AFP.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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