Jan 31 2009
Antonio Caiazzo, left, and Francesco Simeoli were held in Madrid
Scruffy and unkempt, Antonio Caiazzo seemed like just another Italian who had come to Spain for the sun and good life. The reality was very different: he was one of the deadliest capos, or bosses, of the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia.
Caiazzo, 51, who was arrested in Madrid this week, was involved in a bloody turf war in the 1990s in which innocent bystanders were killed in shoot-outs on the streets of Naples.
In 2007 he was imprisoned for 12 years for Mafia association and aggravated extortion. Caiazzo went on the run, however, staying one step ahead of the law – until now.
His arrest has highlighted the growing menace posed by the Italian Mafia in Spain. Twelve capos have been arrested in the past three months, forcing police to admit that the Camorra and N’drangheta from Calabria and the Sicilian Mafia are now a very real presence on the Iberian peninsula.
Many come to Spain attracted by the opportunity to deal cocaine or to launder millions of euros through property. Others hope to escape the unwelcome attention of Italian investigators and Carabinieri by blending into the established Italian communities in Spain.
A growing awareness among Spanish judicial authorities about the organised criminals has forced police to cooperate with their Italian counterparts.
Among those arrested in Spain are Francesco Simeoli, Patrizio Bosti, Raffaele Laurenti, Mario Santafede, Marco Assegnati, and one of the Camorra “soldiers”, Paolo Pesce.
General Gaetano Maruccia, the head of the Neapolitan Carabinieri, said: “There are many camorristas in Spain. Some deal in drugs, others are fugitives. They know the terrain, they invest in construction and have highly efficient companies which allow them to launder money from extortion and drugs.”
Barcelona, with its large Italian population, has proved popular with Mafia bosses who want to disappear. Salvatore Zazo, 52, was arrested near La Sagrada Familia, Antoni GaudÍ’s unfinished Modernist church, earlier this month.
Zazo was the boss of the Mazzarella clan within the Camorra and was wanted for trafficking cocaine between Colombia and Naples. Within the Camorra there are up to 80 clans; Zazo negotiated drug deals between three of them, authorities said.
A source at the Catalan regional police told The Times: “These capos are coming to Barcelona because there is a large Italian population and they can disappear easily or they can operate more easily. It is also quite close to Italy – and the weather is quite nice, which is important.”
Roberto Saviano, the Italian journalist behind the bestselling book and film Gomorrah, about the Neapolitan Mafia, said that Spain has long been regarded by the Camorra as a crucial part of its criminal empire. He said that Camorra bosses refer to the Iberian peninsula as la costa nostra – our coast.
Mafia bosses seek sun and safety on la costa nostra – Graham Keeley in Barcelona – From The Times – January 31, 2009 – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5622165.ece