Italy's most-wanted mafioso gets new life term for 1992 murder of prosecutors

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Burned cars are seen after a bomb attack that killed judge Paolo Borsellino and his police guards in Palermo
FILE PHOTO: Burned cars are seen after a bomb attack that killed judge Paolo Borsellino and his police guards in Palermo

PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's most-wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, has been sentenced in absentia to a new life term for his role in the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Messina Denaro, 58, considered the most powerful member of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, has been on the run since 1993 and already faced a life sentence for his role in bomb attacks that year in Florence, Rome and Milan which killed 10 people.

A court in the Sicilian city of Caltanissetta ruled late on Tuesday, at the end of a trial that began three years ago, that Messina Denaro was also one of the masterminds behind the killing of Falcone and Borsellino a year earlier.

Falcone, his wife and three members of his police escort were killed on May 23, 1992 when their cars were blown up on the motorway as they drove to Palermo from the nearby airport.

Borsellino, along with five members of his escort, was killed two months later, blown up by a car bomb which exploded as Borsellino crossed a street in Palermo outside the house of his mother who he was going to visit.

Messina Denaro, from a small town near the western Sicilian city of Trapani, is believed by prosecutors to be solely or jointly responsible for numerous other murders in the 1990s.

In 1993 he helped organise the kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy, Giuseppe Di Matteo, in an attempt to dissuade his father from giving evidence against the mafia, prosecutors say. The boy was held in captivity for two years before he was strangled and his body dissolved in acid.

The power of the Sicilian mafia has been weakened by decades of prosecutions, and it is now overshadowed by the Calabrian 'ndrangheta, which has a central role in European drug trafficking. Notheleless, Cosa Nostra still weighs on daily life in Sicilia through activities such as loan-sharking, extortion and drug dealing.

(Reporting by Wladimiro Pantaleone; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Peter Graff)