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Italian police capture leading Naples mobsters

ITALIAN police capture leading Naples mobsters

Italian police arrested dozens of suspected members of the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, including a leading fugitive, in a pair of raids early today, authorities said.

Officers in the southern city of Caserta, some 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Naples, said they arrested Franco Letizia shortly after midnight in a home in a nearby town. Letizia is accused of running extortion rackets and is the suspected chief of the Bidognetti crime clan, police said.

Investigators suspect Letizia, 31, took over the reins of the clan after the capture in January of Giuseppe Setola, who was considered the mastermind of a bloody crime spree last year to eliminate rivals as well as punish businessmen who refused to pay protection money to the Camorra.

Arrested along with Letizia were two suspected mobsters accused of helping him elude capture. Letizia, who is on Italy's list of 100 most-dangerous fugitives, had been on the run for more than a year. Caserta police said they pinpointed his hideout in San Cipriano d'Aversa after several months of intercepting phone conversations.

In a separate operation in Naples, police chief Vittorio Pisani said officers from several police forces were delivering a major blow to the Amato-Pagano clan, which was believed to have emerged victorious in a bloody turf war in the early 1990s with the Di Lauro crime family.

The Amato-Pagano clan is currently "the most powerful clan in the city," Pisani told Sky TG24 TV.

Carabinieri paramilitary police say more than 100 arrest warrants were issued, but it was too soon to say how many suspects have been captured because the raids were still continuing.

By mid-morning, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said 35 suspects had been arrested in Naples and the surrounding countryside. The raids were dealing a "decisive blow against those responsible for hateful crimes, linked to international drug trafficking," La Russa said in a statement.

The Naples sweep follows the capture in the Spanish resort of Marbella Saturday of Raffaele Amato, an alleged Camorra boss who investigators say was one of Italy's top cocaine importers.

Amato is accused of several murders dating back to the turf war that left more than a dozen people dead.

Pisani said Tuesday's sweep against the Amato-Pagano clan also targeted illicitly gained wealth of Amato as well as other mobsters. Sky quoted investigators as saying assets were seized in Spain, Luxembourg, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.


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