The police arrest a Sicilian whose identity was used by a fugitive mafia boss

Prosecutors in Sicily have arrested an Italian man who assumed the identity of mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro when he was a fugitive.

Andrea Bonafede, a 59-year-old surveyor from Sicily, described as “Denaro’s alter ego”, was charged on Monday with helping the gangster evade arrest and sheltering him during his escape.

Denaro, the last godfather of the Sicilian Mafia and one of the world’s most wanted criminals, was detained on January 16 in a private clinic in Palermo – 30 years after his escape – where he periodically underwent treatment for a tumor under the false name of Andrea Bonafede.

Denaro was convicted in 2002 and sentenced in absentia to life in prison for personally killing or ordering the murder of dozens of people.

According to the judges, Bonafede lent Denaro his identity, including his ID card, health card and two cars. Even the house where the boss was hiding in Campobello di Mazara was registered in the name of Bonafede and bought in cash with the boss’s money. Bonafede was questioned by investigators last week, and on Monday a judge arrested him for Mafia ties.

According to the judges, Bonafede “knowingly provided Matteo Messina Denaro with his identity, hiding place and vehicles for safe movement for more than two years.”

Bonafede defended himself by saying that he met Denaro about a year ago in Campobello di Mazara, a small town in the province of Trapani in western Sicily, when he was walking down the street. Bonafede said his boss asked him to help with treatment – doctors say Denaro has colon cancer.

However, according to investigators, it is “unlikely that the world’s most wanted boss would turn to a person he just met on the street for help.”

Authorities say the boss lived in Campobello for more than a year without incident. Impeccably dressed in designer clothes, he drank espresso at the local coffee shop most mornings, ate at pizzerias, walked the streets, shopped, and greeted his neighbors warmly. On Tuesday, investigators found CCTV footage from a Campobello grocery store of the boss shopping three days before his arrest: Denaro reportedly bought minced meat, two bottles of beer and laundry detergent.

Prosecutors are still searching the hiding places used by Denaro in a town 11 minutes’ drive from his mother’s home. So far, the Carabinieri have found at least three apartments used by the mobster, including one where a closet full of clothes hid a secret bunker. In the hiding places, prosecutors found luxury clothes, emeralds, diamonds, a poster for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and several books, including biographies of Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler.

According to Mafia informants and prosecutors, Denaro, aka Diabolic (name of the fictional thief) and At Siccu (the thin one), is the key to some of the most heinous crimes committed by the Sicilian Mafia, including the 1992 bombings that killed anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and the 1996 murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the gangster’s 12-year-old son, who witnessed the state was strangled and dissolved in acid.

Last week, Denaro was transferred to a maximum security prison in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, where he underwent an initial chemotherapy session last Thursday.

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