Fugitive Italian mafia boss nabbed while being treated for Covid-19 in Portugal
Rome, Italy - A wheelchair-bound 'Ndrangheta boss linked to Germany's infamous Duisburg mafia killings has been arrested in Portugal, Italian police said Monday.
Francesco Pelle was found a clinic in Lisbon, the Carabinieri police said in a statement. Italian press reports said he was being treated for Covid-19.
Pelle, 44, was on the Italian interior ministry's "most dangerous fugitives" list, after having been given a life sentence for murder.
He was one of the key players in a feud between 'Ndrangheta clans that escalated in the 2007 Duisburg killings in Western Germany, which left six people dead.
Those killings were a reprisal for the Christmas Day, 2006 murder of the wife of a mafioso, which Pelle had ordered to avenge the shooting in which he lost the use of his legs.
Pelle was sentenced to life for that murder, but went into hiding in June 2019, after Italy's top appeals court confirmed the jail term.
The feud between the Pelle-Vottari and Nirta-Strangio clans, both from the same village of San Luca, reportedly began with an egg-throwing prank in 1991.
The Duisburg killings served as a brutal wake-up call for German public opinion, until then largely oblivious to mafia activities on its doorstep.
The 'Ndrangheta has extended its reach across all parts of the world, surpassing Sicily's Cosa Nostra as Italy's biggest mafia organisation.
Based in the southern Calabria region, it is considered one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates thanks to its control of most of the cocaine entering Europe.
The organisation's secretive culture and brutal enforcement of codes of silence have made it very difficult to penetrate.