ROME – Police in southern Italy on Wednesday captured one of Italy's most-wanted fugitive mobsters, who was considered the financial brains behind the bloodiest of Camorra crime syndicate clans.
Antonio Iovine, 46, nicknamed "'o ninno'" (dialect for "the baby") for his youthful looks, grinned at crowds outside Naples police headquarters as he was hustled from a squad car into the building.
A convicted boss of the Casalesi crime family, Iovine had been on the run for 14 years. He was arrested with virtually no resistance after being found hiding in a crawl space in an apartment in Casal di Principe, a town near Caserta which is the Casalesi stronghold, police said.
Prosecutors told reporters at a news conference in Naples that bugged telephone lines helped narrow the search for Iovine.
"He never left his territory. A real boss never leaves his territory," Naples police chief Santi Giuffre told Sky TG24 TV in the Naples.
In an idea of the Casalesi's clout on Italy's organized crime scene, police have seized about euro2 billion ($2.7 billion) worth of assets allegedly illegally gained by its members over the last few years.
Investigators contend that the Casalesi family runs a lucrative illegal business in transporting and disposing of tons of toxic waste, a murky world explored in the book and film "Gomorrah."
Other moneymakers for the crime clan are numbers rackets, extortion, drug trafficking, smuggling of illegal migrants and arms. Prosecutors have also alleged the clan has infiltrated a produce wholesale complex between Naples and Rome that is one of Europe's biggest fruit and vegetable markets, as well as numerous cement companies.
Iovine was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for murder and criminal association.
A crackdown on the Casalesi branch of the Camorra led to the capture of several other top bosses in the last few years, but one still remains at large — Michele Zagaria, who, along with Iovine, was reputedly the top lieutenant of 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.
Two years ago, the Italian government sent in paratroopers with armored vehicles to Casal di Principe, a farm town of 20,000 people, to patrol streets in the hunt for fugitives.
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.
A businessman who was one of the rare locals to defy the Casalesi demands for "protection" money was another victim of the murder spree police said was part of intimidation campaign.
(This version CORRECTS spelling to Casalesi in 3rd paragraph.)