Italy arrests Camorra ‘superboss’ after 14 years on run

Italian police on Saturday arrested top mafia fugitive Marco Di Lauro, the fourth son of ex-Camorra boss Paolo Di Lauro, after over 14 years on the run.

Italy arrests Camorra 'superboss' after 14 years on run
A file photo from 2005 showing Carabinieri officers in front of the house of then-Camorra boss Paolo Di Lauro. Photo: AFP

Di Lauro, 38, was arrested without a fight at a modest apartment where he lived with his wife in the Chiaiano district in southern city Naples, police said.

He was sitting with his two cats and eating pasta when police arrested him in an operation involving around 150 officers.

Police allowed Di Lauro to change his clothes and freshen up before taking him away, local media reported. He voiced concern for the fate of his cats.

Naples police chief Antonio De Iesu told a press conference that “unusual activity” had led police to the suspect, previously convicted of criminal association.

Police found no weapons and a small sum of money in the flat.

An international arrest warrant was issued for Di Lauro in 2006, and he was one of Italy's four most-wanted criminals, according to the interior ministry website.

Italian media said he was considered the second most dangerous man in Italy, after Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro.

Photos in Italian media showed Di Lauro wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt being brought to the police station in Naples by car, with a police helicopter overhead.

Around 100 people including police gathered outside shouting “well done, well done”, according to television images.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted his thanks to the police for the arrest of the “super fugitive”.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini voiced congratulations for a “very important operation”.

The high-profile arrest was reportedly linked to the murder earlier in the day of the wife of a man linked to Di Lauro, Salvatore Tamburrino.

Tamburrino, 40, handed himself in for shooting dead Norina Mattuozzo, 33, shortly before De Lauro's arrest.

She was found dead at her parents' home in Naples where she had gone to live after her relationship with Tamburrino deteriorated, local media reported.

Police chief De Iesu refused to confirm or deny a link between the murder and Di Lauro's arrest.

Di Lauro had been on the run since he escaped a massive police swoop in 2004 known as the “night of the handcuffs”.

An informant said in 2010 that Di Lauro was responsible for at least four murders.

Marco's father Paolo Di Lauro was head of the Camorra clan that operates in Naples' impoverished Scampia and Secondigliano neighbourhoods.

He has been in prison since 2005, and Marco had reportedly taken over running the much-weakened clan.

At least 130 people were killed in a bloody power struggle there after the Amato-Pagano clan split from the Di Lauro clan in 2004.

Marco Di Lauro, reportedly known within the family by the code F4 for “fourth son”, had nine brothers and one sister.

All the brothers are now either in prison or dead, Italian newspapers reported.

READ ALSO: Spanish police strike blow to Camorra mafia crime network

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Young guns take charge of mafia clans – with deadly results

Crackdowns on Italy's mafia clans and the arrests of notorious bosses have had unintended consequences - including the rise of an inexperienced but reckless generation of aspiring leaders. Felia Allum, Senior Lecturer in Italian and Politics at the UK's University of Bath explains what this has meant for Italy.

Young guns take charge of mafia clans – with deadly results
A gang-related shooting in Naples. Ciro Fusco/EPA

Over the last few years, the police and judiciary have proved largely successful in capturing and prosecuting the leadership of some of Europe’s most notorious crime syndicates.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Naples – home to the Camorra, the notorious Neapolitan mafia. The Conversation

Many of the Camorra clans that dominated the city during the 1990s and early 2000s have seen their most experienced leaders arrested and sent to prison, including Paolo Di Lauro, Salvatore D’Avino, Raffaele Amato, Edoardo Contini, and many more.

This should be good news; the arrests of these middle-aged mob bosses mean that the criminal underworld has been emptied of charismatic leaders, disrupting the clans’ hierarchies and operations.

But there have been unintended consequences. Efficient law enforcement strategies have left a vast vacuum in the Camorra, which a younger, more reckless generation of aspiring clan leaders are now vying to fill.

As a result, the situation in Naples is one of anarchy, instability and danger. With no guidance from established camorristi, inexperienced young men are inflicting chaos on the city. Local businesses which once formed the power base of established clans now suffer from even greater extortion and violence at the hands of their successors.

Turmoil in the illicit drugs trade is indicated by ever more frequent shoot outs between rival clans, as they fight over control of supply and distribution. Meanwhile, young teenagers who lack prospects in the context of Italy’s stagnant economy are easily recruited as foot soldiers and drug dealers, in exchange for instant cash.

And whereas the previous generation tried to be discreet, this next generation of camorristi have taken to Facebook to threaten rivals, goad the police and glorify mob culture and death. They imitate Isis by growing beards and using strong language with references to terrorism, to create a sense of shared identity among their group.

Their latest form of power play is to drive around at night on mopeds, shooting in the air. These raids (called “stese”) are a way for young gangs to affirm their existence, intimidate citizens and threaten rivals. This behaviour has led the judiciary to speak of their crimes as a form of “urban terrorism”.

Young lives claimed

Inevitably, innocent bystanders have been caught in the crossfire: in September 2015, a 17-year-old was killed as he sat on his moped while out with friends on a Saturday night. And in January 2017, a ten-year-old girl got caught up in a punitive shoot out.

Victims of their circumstances. pixelthing/Flickr, CC BY-SA


But this erratic violence is also removing the possibility of redemption for those who get caught early in their criminal careers.

In his 2016 documentary Robinù, Italian journalist Michele Santoro quoted some emerging criminals, saying: “At 15, they learn how to shoot, at 20, they are killers and they don’t reach 30”.

During their short lives, there is no time for traditional values. Instead, they crave celebrity status. As one young camorristi said:

Nowadays, it is those who commit the most crimes and break the most rules, who are recognised as the leaders.

Worryingly, this trend is emerging in other cities across Europe. Liverpool, England has also become a hub for drugs and arms sales, with a thriving organised crime community seeking to control these activities. There have been four murders since April 2016, which were thought to be associated with local gang turf wars.

The use of firearms, especially in turf wars, often revolves around drug markets. This remains a major concern in European cities, but appears to be low down the political and police agendas. For instance, Europol’s latest serious and organised crime threat assessment clearly prioritises technological innovation, and criminals’ capacity to engage with and adapt to the digital age through new online developments such as online illicit trade, encrypted communication channels and so on. But the guns wielded by territorial clans are not virtual. They are real – and they kill.

In 2013, 58% of EU citizens expected the level of firearms-related crime to increase over the next five years. Between July 2014 and June 2015, 1,285 guns and 23,000 munitions were seized in the province of Naples. And in the UK, the latest figures up to June 2016 indicate that gun crime is also on the rise (an increase of 7%). In 2015 alone, 714 firearms were taken off the streets of London.

Organised crime groups, gangs and mafias operate within a vicious world of crime, power and money. But there have been unintended consequences, since the police and judiciary have finally taken effective action against these groups. The emergence of a new generation of gang leaders suggests that effective law enforcement is not enough to dampen the incentive for young people to get involved in criminal gangs. Instead, it may be time to reconsider the impact of the principles behind some recent social and economic policies, which are affecting the lives of so many people across Europe.

Felia Allum, Senior Lecturer in Italian and Politics, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.