Italian police arrested the second-most wanted Mafia boss in the country on Sunday, ending a 20-year manhunt. Ernesto Fazzalari, kingpin of the secretive and violent ‘Ndrangheta, was captured in a remote town in Calabria — the toe of Italy’s boot and the home territory of the organized crime syndicate.
“This shows that you cannot run from justice. These are the kind of victories that encourage and support us in the difficult but winnable fight against organised crime,” said Angelino Alfano, the country’s interior minister.
Fazzalari had been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for a long list of crimes, including murder. (He went into hiding in 1996 following a particularly nasty gang war.) The raid that nabbed him followed years of investigation by Calabria’s special anti-Mafia unit with the help of former gangsters who turned state’s evidence, police sources said.
Italy might finally be making a dent in the ‘Ndrangheta’s €40 billion-per year criminal operations (equivalent to 3% of the country’s GDP), but only time will tell. The group specializes in the lucrative dark arts of drug trafficking, arms dealing, prostitution, and extortion. Those won’t be going out of business anytime soon, if ever.
Demonstrating its global reach, the ‘Ndrangheta also has solid links with Colombian drug gangs, Mexican cartels, and mafia families in New York and elsewhere in North America. Indeed, according to the Telegraph, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed the infamous Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra mafia in power thanks to the wealth it has amassed as the principal importer and wholesaler of cocaine produced in Latin America and smuggled into Europe via North Africa and southern Italy.
And the ‘Ndrangheta is by no means going to lay low after this raid, nor end its campaign of intimidation against politicians opposing organized crime. In the regional capital of Reggio Calabria on Sunday, mobsters were suspected of torching a car belonging to the husband of the city’s alderwoman for public works, Angela Marcianò. “What happened will not stop us,” she vowed.
Nevertheless, the capture of Fazzalari deep in the ‘Ndrangheta heartland was “hugely significant,” said Federico Cafiero De Raho, Calabria’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor. The mob boss thought he would be protected, or at least tipped off in advance of a raid. He was mistaken. “In the past people were afraid to talk but now I think the situation has changed. We have accountants and business people prepared to give evidence because they know there are judges and police who are on their side,” De Raho added.
Now let’s just hope that Italy can do a better job of keeping its captured kingpins locked up than Mexico.