Trapani

'Mafia head' Messina Denaro assets seized

Farms, companies in name of kingpin's sister confiscated

'Mafia head' Messina Denaro assets seized

Trapani, January 25 - Italian police on Friday seized hundreds of thousands of euros in assets belonging to the fugitive reputed head of the Sicilian Mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro. Olive-oil businesses, cars and bank accounts were among the assets seized, police said. They were in the name of Denaro's sister Anna and her husband, detained on Mafia charges, 43-year-old Vincenzo Panicola. A wave of arrests over recent years have closed the net around the fugitive 50-year-old Agrigento-based boss Denaro, one of the world's 10 most-wanted men, who took control of Cosa Nostra after the 2006 arrest of Bernardo Provenzano. In 2011 the hunt kicked into a new gear when police issued a new identikit picture of him. A year previously were able to reconstruct his DNA. Messina Denaro built up his power base in his native Trapani, in western Sicily, before beating Palermo chieftains to become Mob kingpin after 'boss of bosses' Provenzano was caught in April 2006. His position at the top of Cosa Nostra was assured with the November 2007 arrest of Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, a veteran mafia chieftain who had appeared to be vying with the younger mobster for control of crime syndicate and had the apparent support of the 'old guard'. Messina Denaro had been expanding his criminal empire abroad and police found evidence of trips to Austria, Greece, Spain and Tunisia. But police launched a major counter-offensive, implementing a 'scorched earth' campaign to try and flush Messina Denaro out, arresting scores of his underlings and seizing million of euros in assets. "The circle is closing around the No.1 fugitive," then interior minister Roberto Maroni said in 2010. Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Messineo added at the time that their aim of the strategy against Messina Denaro was to "dry up the water he swims in". Last May National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Pietro Grassi, who has since become a centre-left candidate in the upcoming elections, said the efforts had been so successful that "the Mafia effectively no longer has a No.1". Nicknamed 'Diabolik' after a cult Italian comic strip criminal, Messina Denaro sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months pregnant girlfriend. He is reportedly idolised by Cosa Nostra younger troops because of his ruthlessness and playboy-like charisma.

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