ROME – Italian police arrested one of the country's "most-dangerous" fugitives in raids early Tuesday that netted at least 70 suspected members of the the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate. The search for dozens more was still under way, police said.
Officers in the southern city of Caserta, 20 miles northeast of Naples, said they arrested Franco Letizia shortly after midnight in a home in a nearby town. Letizia is accused of running extortion rackets and is the suspected chief of the Bidognetti crime clan, police said.
Investigators suspect Letizia, 31, took over the reins of the clan after the capture in January of Giuseppe Setola, who was considered the mastermind of a bloody crime spree last year to eliminate rivals and to punish businessmen who refused to pay protection money to the Camorra.
Arrested along with Letizia were two suspected mobsters accused of helping him elude capture. Letizia, who is on Italy's list of 100 most-dangerous fugitives, had been on the run for more than a year. Caserta police said they pinpointed his hideout in San Cipriano d'Aversa after several months of intercepting phone conversations.
In a separate operation in Naples, police chief Vittorio Pisani said officers from several police forces delivered a major blow to the Camorra's Amato-Pagano clan, which was believed to have emerged victorious in a bloody turf war in the early 1990s with the Di Lauro crime family.
The Amato-Pagano clan is currently "the most powerful clan in the city," Pisani told Sky TG24 TV.
Carabinieri paramilitary police said that by early afternoon at least 67 suspects were arrested in Naples and the surrounding countryside in raids against the Amato-Pagano clan.
Carabinieri spokesman Angelo Mazzagatti said officers from several police forces were still looking for about three dozen other suspects named in warrants, although several of those named were already in jail in other investigations.
The raids were dealing a "decisive blow against those responsible for hateful crimes, linked to international drug trafficking," Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said in a statement.
The Naples sweep follows the capture in Spain on Saturday of Raffaele Amato, an alleged Camorra boss who investigators say was one of Italy's top cocaine importers.
Amato is accused of several murders dating from the turf war that left more than a dozen people dead.
Pisani said Tuesday's sweep against the Amato-Pagano clan also targeted illicitly gained wealth of Amato as well as other mobsters. Sky quoted investigators as saying assets were seized in Spain, Luxembourg, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.