Mafia boss finds his style cramped

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The Independent Online
IT COULD have been a scene out of a film. The Mafia boss, in an elegantly cut dinner-jacket and black tie, is about to go out and celebrate New Year's Eve with Europe's jet-set in the smartest night-spot at Cortina d'Ampezzo, in the north-east Dolomite region. His sleek Mercedes waits outside.

The doorbell rings. A carabinieri officer presents an arrest warrant. The villa, on Cortina's most elegant street, is surrounded. Edoardo Contini throws off his dinner-jacket. 'I have got to change. This jacket has brought me bad luck.'

Some hours later, in a thick snowstorm, they set off. Not for the high life but for a long trip through the night to an overcrowded cell at Naples' Poggioreale jail.

Mr Contini, reputed to be one of the cleverest and most powerful bosses of the Camorra, the Naples Mafia, had been sought since July, when he was supposed to go into enforced exile on the island of Favignana, off Sicily, but never showed up. Where he has been since - he only arrived in Cortina on Christmas Eve - is not clear but the carabinieri appear to have tracked him down by tuning in to calls from his portable telephone.

Not all wanted Mafia bosses are skulking in remote farmhouses. Italian authorities are finding bosses in the world's lushest spots. Five months ago Felice Maniero was captured while sailing his big yacht off the island of Capri. Pietro Vernengo, called 'Bazooka Eyes' because of his ferocious gaze, and Antonino Calderone lived luxuriously on the Amalfi coast. Michele Zaza, specialist in cigarette-smuggling and money-laundering, and Francesco Schiavone, a chief of the Caserta Mafia, preferred villas on the French Riviera.

Cortina itself, Italy's smartest alpine resort, is becoming uncomfortably popular with the Mafia. Only recently, in a convent of the Ursuline nuns where Giulio Andre otti, the former prime minister, often spends holidays, police arrested a grammar-school boy, son of a well-known and apparently highly respectable businessman from Bari. The charge: having imported, with his father and brother, 500kg of cocaine from Medellin, Colombia.

The anti-Mafia Commission noted in a report that Cortina is experiencing 'intense real-estate activity, focusing on the purchase of old hotels which require substantial investment . . . it is reasonable to suppose that this activity conceals sophisticated (money) recycling operations by organised crime.'