Mafia kingpin arrested in bed with girlfriend after 20-year hunt
A TWO-DECADE long manhunt for one of Italy’s most wanted mafia bosses ended without a shot being fired yesterday when commandos swooped on ’Ndrangheta kingpin Ernesto Fazzalari as he slept next to his girlfriend in a remote cottage in the Calabrian mountains. The arrest of the 46-year-old fugitive
capo, Italy’s second most wanted man – after Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro – was hailed as a historic breakthrough in the country’s battle against organised crime. “This shows that you cannot run from justice,” said Angelino Alfano, the interior minister. “These are the kind of victories that encourage and support us in the difficult but winnable fight against organised crime.”
The Calabrian mobster offered no resistance during the raid, which followed years of investigation by the region’s special anti-Mafia unit with the help of former gangsters who turned state’s evidence, police sources said.
Officers from the paramilitary police said they found a pistol and ammunition in the building but Fazzalari had no time to use it. The gangster’s 41-yearold girlfriend was also arrested, on charges of helping a fugitive evade his sentence and complicity in illegal possession of a firearm.
Carabinieri commandos pounced on Fazzalari while he was asleep with his girlfriend at a cottage in a remote hamlet near his crime-infested home town of Taurianova in the rugged Aspromonte mountains.
The Calabrian mobster had been on the run since 1996 and had been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for crimes including belonging to a Mafia association, murder, drug trafficking and illegal possession of weapons.
Federico Cafiero De Raho, Calabria’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, said it was hugely significant that Fazzalari had been captured deep in the ’Ndrangheta heartland.
“Taurianova is a place where the clans control every clod of earth,” he said. “He felt safe. That is why he was found with only his girlfriend and no bodyguard. He thought he was protected on his own turf, that he would be warned if he was in danger.
“But no alarm came. The investigation proceeded without him hearing a whisper. 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.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi heaped praise on the forces of law and order for the arrest. “I am proud of the men and women who serve the state,” he said in a tweet. “Long live Italy!”
Fazzalari went on the run 20 years ago to avoid arrest for his involvement in a bloody feud in Taurianova between rival clans in the ’Ndrangheta mafia.
Secretive and vicious, the ’Ndrangheta has surpassed the infamous Cosa Nostra in power thanks to its wealth as the principal importer of cocaine into Europe.
The organisation is made up of numerous clans based in Calabria, the under-developed “toe” of Italy’s boot.