NAPLES, Italy — Italian police on Saturday arrested one of the country’s most wanted mafia fugitives after tearing down a wall in a dawn raid at a chicken farm where he had built a hideout, authorities said.
Salvatore Russo, the 51-year-old head of a Camorra clan carrying his name, had been sentenced to life in prison for homicide and links to organised crime and was on the run since 1995, Naples police said in a statement.
The arrest was made just after 7:00 am at the farm near Naples after he returned from hunting, investigators said at a news conference.
The alleged clan leader had set up a small hideout at the chicken and rabbit farm in Somma Vesuviana, police said.
Officers thought the farm was empty when they burst on the scene, but found Russo after tearing down a thick wall that had attracted their attention because it looked out of place.
He had an Uzi machine gun, a Beretta pistol and a shotgun with him at the time, police said. Further searches turned up another pistol and documents related to the crime gang’s operations, they said.
Russo said nothing during his arrest, but kicked a journalist when being taken from the police station to jail.
The fugitive and his 62-year-old brother, Pasquale Russo, had completely reorganised the Camorra mafia since the 1990s, authorities said.
Police said Russo’s clan had total control over illegal activity in about 40 towns in the Naples region.
Pasquale Russo has also been on the run since 1995 and is accused of mafia links, homicide and concealing bodies.
Government ministers welcomed the arrest, calling it a major victory against organised crime.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni spoke of the “extraordinary success against the mafia and the Camorra,” while Justice Minister Angelino Alfano saluted the “extremely hard blow” to the criminal gang.
The Naples Camorra, comprising several dozen families affiliated to often feuding clans, is believed to be 5,000-strong.