Last month's police operation to catch Italy's most wanted man, Cosa Nostra fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro, after 30 years on the run, shows the supremacy of law over the Mafia, President Sergio Mattarella told police force commanders at the Quirinale presidential palace Monday, sources said Tuesday.
Messina Denaro, 60, was captured at a Palermo cancer clinic after three decades hiding out near his Trapani home with the complicity and omertà of swathes of the local population, Italian police say.
Mattarella expressed the 'Republic's gratitude' for the capture of Messina Denaro, "emphasising how this success of the action of the Judiciary and all the Police Forces, who have committed themselves to it with tenacity and dedication, has manifested the supremacy of the law over crime and has strengthened citizens' trust in a society free from the presence of the Mafia", Quirinale sources said.
Messina Denaro, who is continuing his colon cancer treatment in a high-security prison at L'Aquila in Abruzzo, was questioned there Monday.
He has told police he is well-tread on health issues and has demanded the best treatment possible.
Italian police recently arrested Messina Denaro's doctor after previously arresting the man who had lent him his identity so he could hide out until his arrest on January 16.
Prosecutor Paolo Guido said there had been a "deafening silence" in the omerta' shown by the community that had sheltered Messina Denaro in the mall town near Trapani in western Sicily, Campobello di Mazara.
The Trapani superboss has been condemned to life in prison in absentia for his involvement in dozens of murders, including the 1992 bombings that killed anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the killing of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 12-year-old son of a mobster-turned-State witness who was strangled and dissolved in acid in 1996, and bombings at art and religious sites in Milan, Florence and Rome that killed 10 people and hurt 40 more in 1993.
The mobster was seen by some experts as the boss of bosses within the Mafia after the deaths of Bernardo 'The Tractor' Provenzano in 2016 and Toto' 'The Beast' Riina in 2017, although other experts said he was not at the very summit of Mafia power, without being able to say who occupies that post, possibly because it is vacant.
Reportedly idolised by Cosa Nostra's younger troops because of his ruthlessness and playboy-like charisma, Messina Denaro sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months-pregnant girlfriend.
The boss, who reportedly enjoyed orgies with Palermo women while on the run, once said he could have filled a cemetery with those he had killed.
He was reportedly helped dodge police by a "middle class Mafia", not only around Trapani but also around Sicily, Italian police have said.