Police in the southern Italian region of Calabria on Monday captured the top boss of the powerful 'ndrangheta organized crime syndicate whose clan feuds have bloodied the southern region for years, authorities said.
Pasquale Condello, 57, a fugitive for 20 years, was arrested in an apartment in the center of regional capital Reggio Calabria, police said. There was a pistol in the residence, but he offered no resistance.
"It is the latest, extraordinary operation against organized crime," Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said in a statement. "Pasquale Condello was the No. 1 boss of the 'ndrangheta."
Condello was known as "the supreme one" for his role at the top of the crime syndicate.
Before his capture, Condello had been No. 2 on the police list of Italy's most dangerous fugitives, the Apcom news agency reported.
Amato said investigators considered Condello the "Provenzano of Calabria." He was referring to Bernardo Provenzano, the reputed "boss of bossess" of Sicily's Cosa Nostra who was arrested in a farmhouse near Corleone, Sicily, in 2006 after some 40 years as a fugitive.
Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Alberto Cisterna told Sky TG24 TV that the Condello crime clan was one of the most "ferocious" 'ndrangheta families and that Condello had received several life prison terms for a series of crimes.
The 'ndrangheta in recent years has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia in power and reach, especially in running cocaine trafficking between Colombia and Europe, investigators have said.
While the 'ndrangheta increased its power, the Sicilian mob suffered harsh blows with the arrest of several top bosses in the last years, sometimes with the aid of information from turncoats. But few turncoats have emerged in the 'ndrangheta, based mainly on family ties.
The 'ndrangheta made headlines in Europe last summer when six young Italians were gunned down after eating in a pizzeria in Germany.
Condello was "one of the last bosses still on the loose," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Reggio Calabria prosecutor Francesco Mollace as saying.
Mollace had prosecuted Condello for the 1987 slaying of a former head of the Italian state railways. Condello, described by prosecutors as the mastermind, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Investigators have described Condello as having run a network of extortion and kickbacks on public works contracts, as well as having gotten control of contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) to build water purifiers in some Calabrian towns, ANSA reported.