Mobsters leave court in a hole

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The Independent Online
TWO of the most dangerous mobsters in Italy, on trial in a top- security court, threw proceedings into confusion when, under the stern gaze of judge, jury, lawyers and police, they suddenly ... disappeared.

All Ferdinando Cesarano and Giuseppe Autorino left behind in the prisoners' cage of the bunker courtoom in Salerno were two unused flares. Apparently they had planned to vanish in a puff of smoke - but even that was not needed.

They had instead simply dropped through a trap-door in the floor, slid down a freshly dug tunnel, run across surrounding fields and were whisked away in a waiting car.

By the time the guards pulled themselves out of their stupor, Cesarano and Autorino were out of range of police pistols and had disappeared into the balmy southern Italian night.

For years, Cesarano and Autorino had been responsible for reinvesting the profits of the Camorra - the Naples-area mafia - in South America. Before that, they had run their hometown extortion racket and coordinated clan killings. Both had been given life for murder.

The escape spelt deep embarrassment for the Justice Minister, Giovanni Flick, following other spectacular escapes last month. "Flick should do everyone a favour," one top defence lawyer said. "He should stop polluting the justice system ... and go straight home." In other words, do more or less what the missing prisoners had done.