London — At the request of Italian authorities, when Dutch police arrested a man on suspicion of being the fugitive Sicilian mafia boss, the man’s Liverpool accent died that they had collared the wrong man. It must have been a present.
A 54-year-old British man, identified only as Mark L., traveled from Liverpool to the Netherlands to attend the Dutch Grand Prix, an F1 car race held in Zandvoort on September 5. He was having dinner with his son. At a restaurant in Hague last Wednesday, armed police officers arrested him at a restaurant in Hague, and Matteo Messina Denaro, a mob on the Italian wanted list since 1993. I believed that.
The blindfolded Mark L. was then transferred to the highest security prison, where he was quarantined.
The next day, Amsterdam’s criminal defense counsel, Leong Van Cleef, was contacted by a local police officer and specifically asked him to act as a legal representative for a man arrested suspected of being a mafia boss. He said he did.
A simple search on the Internet by Van Crief’s colleagues revealed who was Messina Denaro, a Sicilian gang known for killing police and prosecutors. He is also sought after for a car bomb that killed dozens of people in the early 1990s.
“I asked myself,’Why does this guy ask me and how does he know my name?'” Said Van Cleef.
Intrigued, Van Cleef visited a man in jail and recognized him — delivering clothes to a friend about 15 years ago as a Liverpool man, not as a mafia boss on the internet. I met when I was there. I was on trial in the Netherlands.
“He’s really a Liverpool, not a few,” Van Cleef said, referring to Mark L.’s strong accents and deep family roots in Liverpool rather than Sicily.
It wasn’t until Saturday that he received news from police that his client would be released after Van Cleef was determined not to be an Italian gang.
“The man arrested at a restaurant in The Hague last Wednesday is not the man Italy is looking for,” the prosecution said in a statement on Saturday.
According to Mark L.’s lawyer, Van Cleef, an Italian police officer saw a photo of his client and concluded that he was the fugitive Messina Denaro. The Italian authorities then notified the Dutch authorities, who arrested Mark L on the European Arrest Warrant issued by the Italian authorities.
However, he said, “There are no similarities between photos known to Denaro’s public sources and recent photos of my client.” “I don’t even know if he had facial surgery or if Denaro is alive,” he added.
Prosecutors in the northern Italian town of Trento tracked the case and did not consult with investigators in the Sicilian town of Palermo, who had long followed Messina Denaro, according to Italian media reports.
However, Italy’s anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Lajo defended Trento officials without going into the details of the case. “They were operating the right way,” he said in a statement.
Trent’s Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
Known as the “boss of all bosses,” Messina Denaro has little known identity and whereabouts since she disappeared from her hometown in western Sicily in 1993. There were frequent but unfounded sightings of gangsters.
According to Sicilian journalist Lirio Abbate, who wrote a book about Messina Denaro last year, the mafia boss is highly respected by his peers, his business partners, and many of his lovers. But not betrayed him by the police.
“The long hunting reinforced his myth,” Abate said.
Messina Denaro’s photos are from a family album and are only taken in the 1990s. But since publishing the book and appearing in the Netflix television series “The Most Wanted in the World,” Abate has been seen by hundreds of people around the world who believe he has seen Messina Denaro, including police officers. He said he received an unfounded photo.
“Most people have good intentions, but it’s difficult even for researchers who have tried to track him for decades,” Abate said. “He probably doesn’t even see people anymore. He sends letters and communicates without risk. He is an expert in hiding.”