di Marcello Mento
Palermo, April 2 - Fugitive reputed Mafia head Matteo Messina Denaro is reportedly planning to kill a prosecutor leading a case against police allegedly involved in suspected secret 1990s talks with the State to stop a bombing campaign that claimed the lives of magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the Il Fatto Quotidiano daily reported Tuesday. Details of Messina Denaro's alleged assassination plan against Palermo prosecutor Nino Di Matteo were contained in two anonymous letters sent to Palermo prosecutors a few days ago, sources said. The government has ordered Di Matteo's police protection to be beefed up. Tuesday's report was the first claim that Messina Denaro, who took the helm of Cosa Nostra after the arrest of 43-year fugitive Bernardo Provenzano in 2006, was planning to kill a prosecutor. It came as a surprise since the Italian police have recently been reporting they have severely dented the Mafia chief's power by arresting associates and seizing assets. In the latest seizure on January 25, hundreds of thousands of euros in olive-oil businesses, cars and bank accounts were confiscated or frozen. 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 50-year-old Agrigento-based boss Denaro, one of the world's 10 most-wanted men. In 2011 the hunt kicked into a new gear when police issued a new identikit picture of him. A year previously they 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 then National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Pietro Grasso, who has since become Senate Speaker after being elected for the centre-left Democratic Party in February 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.