A fugitive Italian man identified as a leader of what is believed to be one of the world’s wealthiest criminal organisations has been arrested in Madrid, Spanish and Italian police said on Thursday.
Italy’s Carabinieri identified the man as Domenico Paviglianiti, 60, a leader of the Calabrian-based ’ndrangheta crime syndicate.
Paviglianiti was arrested in a joint operation with the Carabinieri, Spain’s National Police said in a statement. Italian prosecutors said the arrest took place Tuesday.
Paviglianiti was carrying fake Portuguese identity papers, six mobile phones and 6,000 euros (£5,100) in cash when he was arrested, according to the Spanish statement.
Police believe Paviglianiti is the head of a ’ndrangheta clan named for him, which operates around the world from its base in three villages in Italy’s Calabria region.
Paviglianiti was sentenced in absentia in January to 11 years, eight months and 15 days in prison for a series of crimes, including murder and criminal association with the aim of drug trafficking.
He had previously been sentenced in Italy to life in prison, reduced later to 30 years, for a series of murders and trafficking offenses dating from the 1980s.
But he was freed in October 2019 due to an error in calculating his sentence, prosecutors said.
He fled to Spain where he allegedly has had the help and protection of drug-trafficking associates.
The ’ndrangheta crime syndicate has amassed power as the Sicilian Mafia has declined.
Investigators say it has used tens of billions of dollars in cocaine revenue to extend its criminal reach and branched out into the rest of Europe, Australia, North and South America and Africa.