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Coronavirus lockdown helps Italian police nab 'leading' mobster

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Rome (AFP)

A top 'Ndrangheta clan member was arrested in Italy after police, helped by the anti-coronavirus lockdown, spotted the fugitive smoking inside a seemingly deserted safe house, authorities said Friday.

Cesare Cordi, described by police as a "leading figure of the 'Ndrangheta of Locri" in southern Calabria, had been on the run since August, when a judge issued a warrant for the 42-year-old's arrest.

Thanks to the empty streets and stay-at-home orders imposed throughout the country due to the coronavirus risk, the police, who had been tracking Cordi for days, found him at a house in the town of Bruzzano Zeffirio, at the tip of Italy's boot, late on Thursday.

"The faint glow of a cigarette -- caught through the crack of a shutter -- was enough to give the carabinieri the certainty that in that house was the wanted man," the police of the province of Reggio Calabria, who staged the raid, said in a statement.

About a dozen people linked to the Locri clan were arrested in August on suspicion of various crimes, including mafia-type association, extortion, illegal competition, fraudulent transfer of assets, and possession of and carrying weapons in public.

The 'Ndrangheta, a loose confederation of about 100 organised groups centred in the Calabria region, is considered the country's most powerful and most organised crime syndicate.

Cordi's father Antonio was head of the Locri clan before his death in 2007.

In December, authorities carried out a massive raid against three other related clans within the group, arresting over 300 people.

The coronavirus threat also provided an opportunity for police elsewhere in Calabria to arrest a grandfather and his grandson on suspicion of drug dealing.

In the city of Cosenza, police stopped a car at 0330 (0230 GMT) to ask why the 79-year-old in pyjamas and slippers was driving with his 31-year-old grandson, according to the AGI news agency.

Under the strict new restrictions, people are required to stay at home with only a few exceptions, notably shopping for food, or seeking medical care.

When the pair could not provide a good reason, police searched the car, where they found a plastic bag with 200 grammes of marijuana under the seats, the agency reported.

Both men will be charged with possession of drugs, and dealing, as well as violating the government’s anti-virus measures.

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