Italian police said they have captured a prominent mobster who had been on the run since the 1990s.
Michele Zagaria, the boss of a crime family belonging to the Camorra in Naples, was reportedly found hiding in a secret bunker in his native town of Casapesenna, about 20 miles north of Naples.
BBC reported that as the chief of the Casalesi family, he had been sentenced to multiple life sentences in absentia. The Casalesi were allegedly involved in all the staples of organized crime, including drug dealing and running scams in the construction industry.
Zagaria was wanted for murder, extortion, kidnapping, mafia association, among other crimes.
CBS News also reported that the Casalesi are involved in the illegal dumping of toxic waste, as well as the smuggling of illegal immigrants and weapons.
Indeed, in 2008 gunmen of the Casalesi massacred six African immigrants in the town of Castelvolturno, near Naples as a warning against Africans from getting involved in the local drug trade. The mass killing prompted outrage and protests by the local African community and the entry of hundreds of Italian soldiers to restore order.
The Camorra controls Naples and much of surrounding Campania region,
According to Agence France Presse, Zagaria told police investigators upon his capture: You won. The state has won.”
The Associated Press reported that police have confiscated $2.7-billion worth of assets illegally acquired by Zagaria or his underlings.
BBC noted that Anna Maria Cancellieri, Italy’s interior minister praised the arrest of Zagaria as a huge success by the state, adding that this crimps the activities of not only… the Casalesi clan, but against the entire Camorra organization.
Prosecutor Piero Grasso told the Associated Press that Zagaria, who was believed to be the most senior member of the Camorra still running free, likely spent his sixteen years as a fugitive near his home, since mafia leaders can only exercise their power if they're in an environment that protects them.”
Last year, Italian police captured another major Casalesi figure, Antonio Iovine.
Grasso also told Sky TG24, an Italian all-news channel: This was the nightmare: We knew he was there, but it was tough to find him, tough to get him out. Finally we did.
Francesco Schiavone, the boss of the Camorra, was seized in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison in 2008.
However, Schiavone is believed to still be running the Camorra from behind bars.
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.