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Top mafia boss Pasquale Bonavota arrested by Italian police after 5 years on the run

Hunting members of Italy's mafia, 'Ndrangheta
'Ndrangheta: Hunting members of the mafia that's bigger than La Cosa Nostra 01:41

Italian authorities on Thursday announced the arrest of a top boss of the 'Ndrangheta mafia after almost five years on the run. He had been featured on the police's list of most dangerous criminals.

Pasquale Bonavota, 49, was wanted since November 2018, after escaping an arrest warrant for homicide and mafia association issued by a magistrate in Calabria, in southern Italy. He was arrested Thursday morning in the northern port city of Genoa, Italy's carabinieri police said in a statement.

Local media said he had been leaving the city's cathedral when he was arrested and was carrying a fake ID.

Pasquale Bonavota Italian Interior Ministry

Bonavota is considered the brains of the 'Ndrangheta's Bonavota clan, which includes his two brothers and is based in the Sant'Onofrio area of the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia. The clan also operates around Rome, and in the northern regions of Piedmont and Liguria, which includes Genoa.  

The 'Ndrangheta is Italy's most powerful and wealthy mafia, controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe. It operates in more than 40 countries around the world. It has successfully expanded well beyond its traditional domains of drug trafficking and loan sharking, now using shell companies and frontmen to reinvest illegal gains in the legitimate economy.

Bonavota went on the run just after being sentenced by a lower court to life in prison for two murders committed in 2014 and 2004, of a lower-ranking member of his own clan, and a rival boss of a nearby clan.

That sentence was overturned in 2021 by an appeals court, while he was on the run.

However, Bonavota was the last remaining fugitive suspect implicated in the massive case against the Vibo Valentia 'Ndrangheta that led to the 2021 maxi-trial against more than 300 alleged mafia members and their helpers.

The trial is still ongoing.

In that indictment, Bonavota is described as being a leader who "took the most important decisions" along with other top 'Ndrangheta bosses, and "looked after the interests of the association in the Rome area and in the gambling sectors and drug trafficking."

The arrest of Bonavota comes less than three months after Edgardo Greco, an Italian fugitive and convicted murderer suspected of being a 'Ndrangheta member, was busted after more than 16 years on the run, including years spent working at a pizza restaurant in France, the Interpol international police agency said.

In January, Italian authorities captured Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, the Cosa Nostra boss who had been a fugitive for 30 years. Italian media reported that Messina Denaro was being treated for colon cancer at the private hospital "La Maddalena" for the last year under the false name "Andrea Buonafede."

According to eyewitnesses, when passers-by realized that security forces had apprehended the notorious crime figure, people cheered and applauded the police.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailed that arrest as "a great victory for the state that shows it never gives up in the face of the mafia."

Documenting Italy's bloody battle against the mafia 03:45
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