Italian police arrest Mafia godfather

 

JUST DAYS before a vital run-off vote in mayoral elections in Naples, Italian police yesterday appeared to strike a significant blow at the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia, when they arrested one of Italy’s 30 most wanted criminals.

Godfather Giuseppe Dell’Aquila’s capture comes three weeks after the arrests of another two Camorra “bosses”, Mario Caterino and Feliciano Mallardo.

More significantly, perhaps, it also comes just four days before Sunday’s run-off vote in a bitterly contested Neapolitan mayoral contest, in which the centre-right candidate from the People of Freedom (PDL) party of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been accused of links to the Camorra by his centre-left rival.

On the run since 2002, Dell’Aquila (42) is wanted on extortion, robbery and money-laundering charges. At least one Mafia turncoat, Salvatore Giuliano, has described him as a “ferocious” killer. Investigators see this arrest as a major coup since he is thought to be a key figure in the organisation of the Contini-Mallardo crime families in Naples.

Dell’Aquila has in the past narrowly avoided capture. Last year, perhaps acting on a tip-off, he was the protagonist in a “cinematic” escape when he jumped from a luxury yacht into the Bay of Naples and swam to the nearby shore as police were boarding the yacht.

Police struck early yesterday, raiding Dell’Aquila’s most recent “safe house” in Varcaturo, on the coast close to Naples, at 5.30am.

A Mafia boss on the run is often found hiding in the roughest of circumstances – in deserted farmhouses or in a converted cellar.

Dell’Aquila, however, appears to have been living in a small but well-appointed ground-level flat in an ordinary, respectable apartment block. Media pictures indicate his comfortable apartment was equipped with a large TV, electronic equipment and its own CCTV security camera system.

“This is another important signal from a centre-right government that is registering consistent success in the battle against organised crime,” senior PDL figure Maurizio Gasparri said.

“Another of the 30 most wanted criminals in Italy has been struck off the list today. This operation is worth more than a thousand words.”

Mr Gasparri’s comments appear to be a reply to government critics who argue that various senior centre-right figures have been compromised by alleged links to organised crime.

In particular Gianni Lettieri, the centre-right candidate in Sunday’s run-off vote in Naples, has been consistently accused of links to the Camorra.

In a TV debate last week, Mr Lettieri’s run-off rival, former investigating magistrate Luigi De Magistris, accused him of wanting to consign the city “into the arms of the Camorra”. Mr De Magistris also said Mr Lettieri was closely linked to Nicola Cosentino, a former Berlusconi government junior minister who resigned last July after public prosecutors confirmed that he was being investigated on charges of Mafia collusion.