If it really exists, the archive of Totò Riina is the main target of investigators after the capture of fugitive Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro. The archive vanished 30 years ago after the failure of the ROS special force unit of the Carabinieri – a body led at the time by General Mori, who was later cleared at the trial – to search Riina’s hideout on Via Bernini in Palermo.
On Monday, in Campobello di Mazara (TP), in an apartment on Via Cb31 in the center of the town, which has less than 12,000 inhabitants among stores and supermarkets, investigators found the hiding place of the elusive Mafia boss. But the archive was not there, the “treasure trove” that could clear up so many of the unsolved mysteries of the massacre season led by the Corleone family. The suspicion is that there are other hiding places as well.
The “godfather” lived in this house for six months at least, where investigators found luxury perfumes, designer clothing and glasses, pills to boost sexual performance, condoms and fine furniture. Everything is being cataloged. The ROS investigators found that the house was in the name of Andrea Bonafede, a real person, but also the alias being used by Messina Denaro when he was captured at the La Maddalena private clinic, where he was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
It’s a critical period for investigators, who are trying to piece together the puzzle of these 30 years Denaro spent on the run, with complicity, business deals, entanglements with corrupt authorities and Freemasonry and relations with political circles. The list of suspects is growing longer: after the driver Giovanni Luppino, with a clean record, the Campobello di Mazara doctor who treated Messina Denaro is also under investigation: his name is Alfonso Tumbarello, 70, retired in December.
One of his patients was the real Andrea Bonafede, now under investigation for collaborating with the Mafia; the doctor knew perfectly well what he looked like and apparently prescribed him a number of drugs. In the end, it was Bonafede himself who pointed investigators to Messina Denaro’s hideout. Interrogated by prosecutors, the man who “lent” the Mafia boss his identity reportedly made half-admissions, saying that he had known him since he was a boy and had used the fugitive’s money to buy the house in the town, which was immediately staked out and searched from top to bottom by the ROS, coordinated by Assistant Prosecutor Paolo Guido who was present during the search.
“We believe it is a house that has been used continuously in the last period, a house that has been a stable residence, where we think we will find significant evidence,” said General Pasquale Angelosanto, head of the ROS.” Is it really possible that no one in this small town recognized this carefree old man as the mafioso responsible for the ’92 and ’93 massacres? The head of the Palermo Public Prosecutor’s Office, Maurizio De Lucia, who is coordinating the investigation, was blunt: “We have our doubts that he could have gone unnoticed in Campobello di Mazara,” the magistrate explained. “There is not much difference between the photos we had available to us and the man we identified and then arrested. But we did not receive any signals from the territory. Truth be told, we were not expecting a rush of reports in this regard.” The boss didn’t do much to keep a low profile. “He felt that the risk of being discovered was limited. He was vain, he took care of himself well, he loved good relations with people … Other fugitives took great care to not be photographed, he didn’t. His character profile made the difference.”
At the time of his arrest, Messina Denaro had a purse which contained some Pavesini biscuits, a small address book and a cell phone. Another cell phone was found in the Fiat Bravo in which Luppino was allegedly driving him from Campobello to Palermo for visits to the private clinic. Also in the purse was the key to an Alfa Romeo car, which video cameras in Campobello recorded leaving the town on several occasions.
The Mafia boss is now at the L’Aquila maximum-security prison. Justice Minister Carlo Nordio signed the decree for the “41bis” strict isolation regime on Tuesday. The doctors at La Maddalena, who operated on him and were monitoring his treatment, said the boss is not in good health and doesn’t have a long life expectancy. Dr. Vittorio Gebbia, head of medical oncology, examined him in January 2021, under his alias Andrea Bonafede, before a multidisciplinary surgical evaluation after his operation for a “mucinous adenocarcinoma of the colon” at Mazara del Vallo hospital on November 13, 2020. His assessment described a good general condition, with symptoms mainly consisting of asthenia, that is, general weakness and reduced muscle strength.
The boss had previously undergone – it is unclear when and where – an inguinal hernioplasty and hemorrhoid surgery. “His condition is serious,” Gebbia said, “the disease has accelerated in recent months. I would not call him a patient in good health. I am sure he will continue to receive all the care he needs. Yesterday the carabinieri asked me if postponing the chemotherapy course he was supposed to have here by three or four days would have any consequences, and I signed the authorization for it, because such a small delay will have no effect on his health condition.”
The doctor says the ominous prognosis was “received in a very dignified manner” by the patient who had “full awareness of his health condition” and “an attitude that didn’t arouse any suspicion” about his true identity. After multidisciplinary surgical evaluation and an MRI that found liver metastases, specialists wrote that “the clinical picture is of high-risk disease.” After the 4 rounds of chemotherapy, the boss underwent surgery to remove the liver metastases at La Maddalena on May 4, 2021. The mobster was polite and in good spirits, and joked with the surgeons: “Come on, let’s do it. Fix me up, I have to go back to the gym.” The operation lasted three hours. When he woke up, he asked the doctors, “Did you get all of it out?” After the operation he began the chemotherapy sessions again, which lasted until they were interrupted by the ROS raid.