Italian mafia boss jailed for life over killings of Falcone and Borsellino

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Italian mafia boss jailed for life over killings of Falcone and Borsellino
Italian judge Maria Carmela Giannazzo conducts a hearing in a bunker court in Caltanissetta, Sicily, for the 1992 Via D'Amelio bombing in Palermo, and the 1992 Capaci bombing. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

An Italian appeal court on Wednesday confirmed life imprisonment for former Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro for his role in the 1992 assassination of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.


The court in Caltanissetta, Sicily, rejected the appeal lodged by the former head of the Cosa Nostra and upheld the life sentence handed down against him in October 2020. 

Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years, was only arrested in early 2023.

His lawyer Adriana Vella had argued for his acquittal, saying he had played no part in the murder of the two judges.

In May 1992, Falcone, his wife and three police bodyguards were killed when a massive explosion on the motorway between Palermo and the nearby Punta Raisi airport destroyed their car.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy's fight against the mafia

Two months later, Borsellino, a close associate of Falcone, who had adopted the same successful tactics against the mafia, was killed in another bombing along with five members of his escort.

The two assassinations created a political shockwave that led to a state crackdown on organised crime, with police and soldiers sent to Sicily to track down those responsible.

A number of senior mafia bosses were subsequently convicted of the killings.

Borsellino family lawyers

The lawyers of the Borsellino family pictured in a special bunker court in Caltanissetta, Sicily. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Messina Denaro, who headed up a major organised financial network, was arrested last January in Sicily. He had used a false name to attend medical appointments for the treatment of colon cancer.


He had already been convicted and sentenced to multiple life sentences for murders he either ordered or carried out personally.

READ ALSO: Ruthless Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro's reign of terror

His conviction follows those of past leaders of Cosa Nostra Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. They both died in jail while serving their sentences, in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Messina Denaro is currently being held in a maximum security prison in L’Aquila, in the central Abruzzo region, east of Rome.


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