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Top Italian mafia boss captured after 20 years on the run

Ernesto Fazzalari was able to run the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate for 20 years while hiding out in southern Italy. The crime syndicate runs a sprawling drug-trafficking network.

Ernesto Fazzalari, the boss of the notorious 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, was arrested while in bed at a hideout in southern Italy's Calabria region on Sunday morning without putting up a fight, the Carabinieri police said.

Fazzalari, 46, "went from his sleep to the handcuffs of the Carabinieri," Colonel Lorenzo Falferi told reporters in Reggio Calabria.

Considered a dangerous and brutal man, Fazzalari was Italy's second most wanted mafia boss. He has already been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in absentia for murder, mafia crimes, drug trafficking, robbery and weapons possession.

The 'Ndrangheta is one of the world's most powerful mafia groups, running a criminal drug network spanning across Italy, the Americas and Europe. Investigators have determined through previous arrests that the 'Ndrangheta have links with Colombian cocaine bosses, Mexican cartels and the New York mafia.

Prime Minister Mateo Renzi on Twitter thanked judges and "forces of order" for the arrest.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called Fazzalari "one of the most important fugitives and a leading underworld figure."

"This shows that you cannot run from justice. These are the kinds of victories that encourage and support us in the difficult but winnable fight against organized crime," he said.

Federico Cafiero de Raho, of the DDA national organization of anti-mafia prosecutors, said Fazzalari was found near his last known home, indicating local contacts had protected him for years.

The 'Ndrangheta is based on a number of secretive village and family-based clans in Calabria. A brutally enforced code of silence means the criminal organization is difficult to infiltrate.

The 'Ndrangheta "controlled every clod of dirt" in their Calabria turf, De Raho said. "He was feeling protected in his territory, by his people."

Similar to other top crime bosses, Frazzalari was able to run a global criminal enterprise from hiding.

Italy's most wanted fugitive is Matteo Messina Denaro, the boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra crime syndicate.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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