'Historic godfather' of Camorra clan arrested in Spain

Police in the Spanish capital Madrid say they have arrested Antonio Caiazzo, the alleged "historic godfather" of the Neapolitan Camorra mafia's Vomero clan, and his henchman Francesco Simeoli (pictured).


AFP - A suspected Italian mafia godfather and his right-hand man have been captured in Madrid after spending almost two years on the run, authorities said Tuesday.

Antonio Caiazzo, 50, the "historic godfather" of the Camorra mafia's Vomero clan, and Francesco Simeoli, 40, were arrested Monday night as they left a restaurant in the suburb of Majadahonda, Italian and Spanish police said.

Their capture follows a series of arrests highlighting the intense activity of the Italian mafia in Spain, which has become a big illegal drug market for the rest of Europe and a haven for money laundering.

Caiazzo hid in Spain as "today it is the main international crossroads for the trafficking of hashish and cocaine," Vittorio Pisani, a Naples police official, told the ANSA news agency.

Caiazzo had been on the run since March 2007 after being sentenced to 12 years in prison by a court in Naples, the home of the Camorra. He is suspected of heading a clan based in the Vomero and Arenella neighbourhoods of Naples.

His suspected henchman, Simeoli, had been a fugitive since June 2007, when an arrest warrant was issued for him as well as Caiazzo and about 30 other suspected members of the Vomero clan.

Spanish police said in a statement that the clan is known for "a brutal internal Camorra war that culminated in 1997 with the Arenella massacre, in which a woman died in the crossfire between two clans."

Caiazzo's clan escaped unscathed, becoming the "uncontested leader," the statement said.

Their capture comes after a wave of arrests of suspected Camorra members in recent months in Spain, where the mafia has been accused of working with Colombian drug traffickers. Spain is the main entry point into Europe for cocaine and Moroccan hashish.

"The Camorra and Colombian cartels work together in Spain" where the Naples mafia manages part of the cocaine trafficking, an Italian police official told the El Pais daily earlier this month -- three days after the arrest in Barcelona of another accused Camorra leader, Salvatore Zazo.

Zazo is suspected of importing Colombian cocaine bound for Naples thanks to a "friendship" forged in Spain between the Camorra, local gangs and Latin American cartels, said Gaetano Maruccia, a Naples military police official.

"Neapolitan organised crime has created logistical bases in several major Spanish cities and has key members (in the country) as well as an ample network of collaborators," Maruccia said.

The Camorra clan is reported to have up to 5,000 members and is believed to be one of several mafia groups involved in drug trafficking, arms deals, prostitution and racketeering.

Spanish police investigations have repeatedly uncovered links between eastern European or Italian mafia and Colombian drug smuggling cartels.

In May 2008, a suspected Italian mafia drug trafficker was arrested in Spain with his Colombian accomplice and 40,000 doses of cocaine on his person.

Italian author Roberto Saviano, who wrote the best-selling mafia expose "Gomorrah," said in a 2006 interview that "Spain has been invaded by Camorra money."

On Spain's Costa del Sol and Canary Islands, Italian mafia money built "several hotels and tourist compounds."

"Spain is considered by many mafiosi as the best place to hide without interrupting their activities," Saviano said.

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