One of Italy’s most-wanted mobsters was captured by Italian anti-mafia police units Wednesday after spending 16 years on the run.
Michele Zagaria ran one of bloodiest clans of the Naples mafia, which is known as the Camorra. He was found hiding under 15 feet of reinforced concrete in an underground bunker in his hometown of Casapesenna, north of Naples.
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli said that Zagaria reportedly told police: “You have won. The state has won.” He had been on the run since 1995.
Anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said it was likely Zagaria had spent his years as a fugitive near home, since mob bosses “can only exercise their power if they’re in an environment that protects them.”
`This was the nightmare: We knew he was there, but it was tough to find him, tough to get him out,” he told Sky TG24. “Finally we did.”
As head of the Casalesi clan, Zagaria had already been sentenced in absentia to multiple sentences of life in prison. The clan has been linked to drug trafficking, illegal disposal of toxic waste, and corruption in securing public works contracts.
Police have seized about $2.7 billion worth of assets allegedly illegally gained by its members over the past few years.
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.
Zagaria’s arrest comes a day after prosecutors filed a request to parliament to lift the immunity of Nicola Cosentino, a former deputy finance minister in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Police say Cosentino is a vital link between the Casalesi clan and political power in Rome.
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reported from Rome for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.