“I don’t want to be superman or even arrogant, you took me for my illness”
“I’m not a mafioso” and “I will never regret it”. It was last February 13th and Matteo Messina Denaro – who died today at the age of 62 – found himself, for the first time, before the Palermo magistrates who were questioning him. In just under two hours the mafia boss had talked about the mafia, the family, even the crime of external complicity in a mafia association. Listening to him were the Chief Prosecutor of Palermo Maurizio de Lucia and the deputy Paolo Guido. “I don’t want to be superman or even arrogant, you took me for my illness”, said Messina Denaro in that first interrogation given to the Palermo magistrates on 13 February. Seven months before he died. “Now that I have the disease I can’t stay outside anymore and I have to come back here. So I started living the life of a tree planted in the middle of the forest”, he explained. And he said that in Campobello di Mazara, where he lived, under a false name “I created another identity: Francesco”. “I played poker, I ate at the restaurant, I went to play.”
In that interrogation Matteo Messina Denaro said he didn’t know what Cosa Nostra was and explained: “I feel like a man of honour, but not as a mafioso. I know Cosa Nostra from the newspapers… maybe I did business with it and I didn’t know that it was Cosa Nostra”. And he claimed that he had not committed the crimes of which they accuse him: “Massacres and murders… I have absolutely nothing to do with them. Then they can accuse me of anything, what can I do?”
“I’m no saint but I had nothing to do with the murder of a child”
On that occasion he also dismissed the hypothesis of having played a role in the murder of little Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of the repentant Santino Di Matteo, kidnapped at 12 years old and then killed and dissolved in acid at 14 years old. “Let me tell you one thing: perhaps it’s the thing I care about most. I’m no saint, but I had nothing to do with the child’s murder.” For the boss, Giovanni Brusca decided everything, “and I feel like they should be saddled with murder, but in my opinion they should be saddled with kidnapping. I’m not doing it for a question of 30 years or life imprisonment, for a question of principle. And then to everyone … that is, they killed him, they dissolved him in acid and in the end I’m the one who pays? But how many injustices do I have to suffer?”.
That day, the Messina Denaro boss also spoke about the audio sent to a patient at the Palermo clinic where he was also being treated for cancer, in which, having been stuck in traffic on 23 May, he insulted Giovanni Falcone: “I’m not I wanted to offend judge Falcone, I don’t care…”, he said. “What’s the point? That I – he added – had something to do with that methodology of commemoration. So, if instead of the judge it had been Garibaldi, my reaction would have always been the same, because they can’t afford to block a motorway for tens of kilometres: this is how you make yourselves hated.”
That day, the Prosecutor de Lucia asked him why he wrote to Bernardo Provenzano and Matteo Messina Denaro replied: “Because when you lead a certain type of life then at a certain moment we have to meet because I am a fugitive accused of the mafia and he is a fugitive accused of the mafia where we go?”. “But do you – insisted the head of the Sicilian DDA – do you remember what you wrote to Bernardo Provenzano?”. “Yes, more or less yes, I asked favors from him if he could do them for me and he asked favors from me if I could do them for him. There were no murders, that’s for sure.”
“I come from a good family, my father was an art dealer”
That day the former Scarlet Pimpernel had explained to the prosecutors that for many years she had decided to live away from technology because she was aware that it would be a weak point.
On that occasion he also spoke about his father, the mafia boss Francesco Messina Denaro, who he had defined as “an art dealer”. “I live well on my own, on my family. My father was an art dealer. I am passionate about ancient history from Rome upwards – the mafia boss told the magistrates – then my father was an art dealer and where I am there is Selinunte (archaeological site in the Trapani area, ed.). My father didn’t go there to dig, but in Selinunte at that time there were a thousand people and they all dug. Generally, my father bought 100% of the works which were then sold in Switzerland and then they came from Switzerland everywhere: in Arabia, in the Emirates and we saw things that passed from my father in American museums”. (by Elvira Terranova)