Michele Zagaria, Mafia Boss, Captured North Of Naples


ROME (AP) -- Police on Wednesday captured one of Italy's most-wanted fugitive mobsters, arresting the last major boss of one of Italy's bloodiest mafia clans.

Michele Zagaria, on the run since 1995, was found in an underground bunker in Casapesenna, in his hometown province of Caserta in southern Italy, the headquarters of the Casalesi clan of the Neapolitan Camorra.

According to Sky News, Zagaria is 53-years-old and was on Italy's top 20 Most Wanted list. An international warrant for his arrest was issued in 2000.

Anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said it was likely Zagaria had spent his years as a fugitive nearby since mob bosses "can only exercise their power if they're in an environment that protects them."

"This was the nightmare: We knew he was there, but it was tough to find him, tough to get him out," he told Sky TG24. "Finally we did."

He noted that the Casalesi's well-known infiltration of local businesses and politics was similar to that of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.

Investigators contend the Casalesi family runs a lucrative illegal business in transporting and disposing of toxic waste, a murky world explored in the book and film "Gomorrah." Other moneymakers for the crime clan are rackets, extortion, drug trafficking, smuggling of illegal migrants and arms.

The Guardian reports that around 150 officers were involved in storming Zagaria's bunker.

Police have seized about euro2 billion ($2.7 billion) worth of assets allegedly illegally gained by its members over the last few years.

Last year, another top Casalesi lieutenant, Antonio Iovine, nicknamed "'o ninno'" (dialect for "the baby") for his youthful looks, was arrested in a major strike against the Casalesi. His arrest left Zagaria as the last big fugitive lieutenant of the charismatic convicted Camorra boss Francesco Schiavone.

Nicknamed Sandokan after the hero of a series of pirate adventure books in Italy, Schiavone is believed to still control the Casalesi clan from behind bars.

Zagaria is wanted for murder, extortion, kidnapping, mafia association and other crimes. Sky News notes that although the Camorra aren't as well known as the Sicilian mafia, "they are more ruthless and bloodthirsty."

In one of their bloodiest strikes, Casalesi gunmen gunned down six African immigrants in one swoop as they chatted on a town street in what police said was a warning to other Africans to stay away from drug trafficking in the area.

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