Italians hail capture of notorious mafia boss as 'the end of an epoch'

Michele Zagaria, head of the Camorra's brutal Casalesi clan, arrested after 16 years on the run

Milan

Italian police dragged Italy's most notorious mafia fugitive from a hole in the ground yesterday, thus ending the reign of the man whose blood-thirsty clan inspired the hit film Gomorrah.

Michele Zagaria, head of the Camorra's brutal Casalesi clan, was hiding in an underground bunker beneath his home north of Naples. As authorities dug him out, officers completely surrounded the small town of Casapesenna to prevent his escape.

"The state has won," the 53 year-old Zagaria was said to have told police sarcastically as they handcuffed him. He had been on the run since 1995 and was sentenced in absentia to life for murder and other mafia crimes in 2008.

The 50 or so police at the scene of the arrest began cheering: "Hurray for the police. Hurray for legality."

Zagaria's Casalesi clan inspired Roberto Saviano's best-selling book Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia, which was made into a prize-winning film. As a result of the exposé, Mr Saviano lives under 24-hour police protection.

Upon hearing yesterday's news Mr Saviano tweeted: "Zagaria taken like a rat underground. Excellent work guys!"

Raffaele Cantone, a former Naples magistrate who has also lived under armed protection since 2003 when it was discovered Zagaria had ordered his assassination, compared the arrest to that of the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses" Bernardo Provenzano in 2006.

"With Zagaria's arrest, the Casalesi clan as we've known it ceases to exist, and we'll have to see what form it will take now," he said. "It's the end of an epoch."

Italy's Interior Minister, Annamaria Cancellieri, hailed the arrest as "a huge success by the state, not only against the Casalesi clan but against the entire Camorra organisation".

Zagaria, who was nicknamed Capastorta or "twisted head" in reference to his asymmetrical features, had ruled the clan with Antonio Iovine, who was captured last year.

Zagaria had remained the last senior fugitive lieutenant of the convicted Camorra boss Francesco "Sandokan" Schiavone. His nickname came from the hero of a series of Italian pirate adventure books, indicating the ambivalent attitude shown by locals towards the Camorra. Schiavone is said to still control the Casalesi clan from behind bars.

Casalesi mobsters are thought to run a lucrative illegal waste disposal business – an activity that exacerbated the crisis that has seen thousands of tonnes of stinking rubbish accumulate on Naples' streets. The clan, which is notorious for internecine violence, also makes hundreds of millions of euros from extortion rackets, drug trafficking, smuggling of illegal migrants and arms.

Zagaria's capture followed news on Tuesday that Carabinieri had seized 57 people in Naples and the surrounding area in a major operation against other members of the Casalesi clan and its associates.

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week