Italian police have apprehended another fugitive mafia boss as “Super” Mario Draghi shows his fellow Italians – and the world – that, in addition to being an economist, administrator and central banker, he’s also an effective crime-fighter in a country that has long struggled with endemic organized-crime siphoning billions from its economy.
As the Italian police finally start to get the better of the various organized criminal groups based in southern Italy, another boss who effectively ran his crime organization despite being officially ‘on the run’ for years was apprehended earlier this month, Italian police have just revealed: Raffaele Imperiale, who Italian police described as “a leading exponent of international drug trafficking and money laundering,” was arrested in Dubai on Aug. 4. Imperiale is being held in the United Arab Emirates, but is expected to be extradited to Italy.
For years, Imperiale has been known as the “Van Gough Boss” after police discovered several stolen works by the Dutch master in one of his homes.
Raffaele Imperiale, who Italian police said was “a leading exponent of international drug trafficking and money laundering,” was arrested in Dubai on August 4. The arrest was only confirmed by Italian authorities this week, and Imperiale is being held in the United Arab Emirates before being extradited to Italy. Imperiale, 46, who had strong ties with powerful families of the Neapolitan Camorra, rose to fame after police found two paintings by Vincent van Gogh, which had been stolen from an Amsterdam museum in 2002, in a house that he owned near Naples.
The paintings the police discovered in Imperiale’s villa in the small town of Castellammare di Stabia were “Beach at Scheveningen in Stormy Weather,” painted in 1882, and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” painted in 1885. The Italian police said the recovered paintings had “inestimable value.”
As the FT reports, while Italy’s best known organized criminal group remains the Sicilian Cosa Nostra – aka the original Mafia, the mafia’s power has waned significantly over the past two decades due largely to law enforcement focusing on the organization. Meanwhile, criminals from other parts of Southern Italy, including the Neopolitan Camorra and Calabrian ’Ndrangheta, have grown stronger. Crime organizations from the ‘Ndrangheta have proven especially skilled at establishing direct contact with Latin American drugs cartels, which has allowed them to secure cheap and steady supplies of cocaine in large quantities.
The arrest follows other major arrests earlier this year: In March, Giuseppe Romeo, a top ‘Ndrangheta drugs trafficker, was arrested after years on the run in Barcelona in Spain. This month Domenico Paviglianiti, a veteran Calabrian crime boss who had been on the run after being mistakenly released from prison in 2019, was arrested in Madrid.