LONDON — When the Dutch law enforcement arrested a guy past week on suspicion of being a fugitive Sicilian Mafia boss, at the request of the Italian authorities, the man’s Liverpool accent should have been a useless giveaway that they had collared the improper person.
The 54-calendar year-outdated British gentleman, determined only as Mark L., had traveled to the Netherlands from Liverpool to show up at a Formula A person automobile race, the Dutch Grand Prix, in Zandvoort on Sept. 5. He was having dinner with his son at a cafe in The Hague very last Wednesday, when according to quite a few neighborhood information media reports, armed police officers arrested him, believing him to be Matteo Messina Denaro, a mobster who has been on Italy’s preferred list due to the fact 1993.
Blindfolded, Mark L. was then transferred to a optimum-protection jail, where by he was held in isolation.
The adhering to day, Leon van Kleef, a prison defense law firm in Amsterdam, was approached by nearby police officers, who mentioned a male they suspected of becoming a Mafia manager and experienced arrested had exclusively questioned for him to be his authorized consultant.
A swift web lookup by Mr. van Kleef’s colleague revealed who Mr. Messina Denaro was: a Sicilian mobster regarded to have killed police officers and prosecutors. He is also needed for automobile bombings that killed dozens of individuals in the early 1990s.
“I questioned myself, ‘Why would this guy ask for me, and how does he know my title?’” Mr. van Kleef explained.
Intrigued, Mr. van Kleef frequented the gentleman in prison and identified him — not as the Mafia boss he had seen on the web, but as a gentleman from Liverpool he experienced achieved some 15 years in the past when he experienced shipped some clothes for a close friend who was on demo in the Netherlands.
“He is actually Liverpudlian, and not a little,” claimed Mr. van Kleef, referring to Mark L.’s potent accent and deep loved ones roots in Liverpool — not Sicily.
It was not until Saturday that Mr. van Kleef gained phrase from the police that his shopper was to be launched soon after it was decided that he was not in simple fact an Italian mobster.
“The person arrested in a cafe in The Hague very last Wednesday is not the person Italy is on the lookout for,” the general public prosecution division mentioned in a statement on Saturday.
According to Mr. van Kleef, Mark L.’s lawyer, an Italian law enforcement officer had found a image of his client and had concluded that he was the fugitive Mr. Messina Denaro. The Italian authorities then notified the Dutch authorities, who arrested Mark L. with a European arrest warrant issued by the Italian authorities.
But, he explained, “there is no similarity in any respect among the photograph that is acknowledged to general public sources of Denaro, and the current photograph of my client.” He additional: “They never even know if Denaro is alive, if he’s had facial surgical procedure.”
Italian media reports recommended that prosecutors in the northern Italian town of Trento had pursued the scenario, and did not check with investigators in the Sicilian city of Palermo, who have lengthy been chasing Mr. Messina Denaro.
Nevertheless, Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy’s main anti-mafia prosecutor, defended officers in Trento, without having going into the information of the situation. “They operated in the right way,” he mentioned in a statement.
The prosecutor’s place of work in Trento did not respond to a ask for for remark.
Regarded as the “boss of all bosses,” Mr. Messina Denaro’s id and whereabouts have been mainly unknown given that he went missing from his hometown in western Sicily in 1993. Investigators believe that he no lengthier lives in Sicily but travels across Europe, in which there have been regular but unsubstantiated sightings of the mobster.
According to Lirio Abbate, a Sicilian journalist who wrote a guide about Mr. Messina Denaro very last calendar year, the Mafia boss remains extremely respected by his associates, his enterprise associates and even his several fans, a lot of of whom have been jailed and experienced their belongings frozen by the law enforcement but have not betrayed him.
“Being hunted for so very long has augmented his fantasy,” Mr. Abbate claimed.
The only images readily available of Mr. Messina Denaro are from a household album and were being taken in the 1990s. But due to the fact publishing the book and showing up in a Netflix Television set collection, “World’s Most Wished,” Mr. Abbate mentioned he experienced been given hundreds of unsubstantiated pics from men and women who believe to have viewed Mr. Messina Denaro throughout the world, including law enforcement officers.
“Most men and women indicate nicely, but it is challenging even for investigators who have experimented with to monitor him down for decades,” Mr. Abbate claimed. “He likely no for a longer time even sees folks. He sends letters and communicates with no taking any pitfalls. He is a professional in hiding.”