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Saturday, July 11, 1998 Published at 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK

World: Europe

Mafia 'big man' arrested

Schiavone was arrested at his home near Naples

Police in Italy have arrested the alleged head of a leading Mafia family, Francesco Schiavone, who had been a fugitive for more than five years.

Officers caught Schiavone, 44, in a secret apartment behind a sliding wall of granite, where he had been living with his wife and seven children at his family's villa near Naples.

Schiavone was wanted for a number of offences including murder, arms trafficking, bomb attacks and armed robbery.

He had been apprehended on two other occasions, but had been freed on legal technicalities.

He is reported to be a leading figure in the Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra, and a key link with the Sicilian Mafia, the Cosa Nostra.

During his years as a fugitive, Schiavone managed to father two children with his wife, despite police keeping her movements under close surveillance.

The mayor of Naples, Antonio Bassolino, congratulated the police on the arrest. "The head of one of the most dangerous criminal clans in southern Italy has been arrested," he said.

The mayor compared the arrest to that of Sicilian Mafia chief Toto Riina in 1993.

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