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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 19:22 GMT
Calabrian mafia leader arrested
Italian police officer stands by map showing where the drugs were trafficked
Thousands of kilogrammes of drugs were seized in Calabria last month
Italian police say they have arrested a top leader of the Calabrian mafia - believed to be the country's most notorious organised crime group.

Giuseppe Morabito, 70, was arrested in a village in southern Calabria region.

He had been at large for 12 years, on suspicion of running an international drug smuggling ring.

His arrest is the second blow in a month to the Calabrian mafia, following the police seizure of thousands of kilogrammes of cocaine in January.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu on Wednesday praised the police force, saying Mr Morabito was "one of the most dangerous crime bosses in Italy".

Mr Morabito - who was arrested along with his son-in-law, another fugitive - was armed but did not resist the police.

"Treat me well," he reportedly told officers.


Chair of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Committee, Roberto Centaro, said the arrest was even more important than that of Bernardo Provenzano, according to the website of La Repubblica newspaper.

Mr Provenzano is the alleged leader of the Sicilian mafia who has been at large for decades.

Drug trafficking in Italy was long dominated by the Sicilian mafia.

But it has been weakened in the last couple of decades by feuding among its bosses and defections of mid-level figures.

The Calabrian mafia, or 'Ndrangheta as it is locally known, specialises in drugs trafficking from Colombian and other Latin American countries to Europe.

Last month, Italian police seized large quantities of cocaine in an operation targeting the 'Ndrangheta.

More than 100 people were also arrested in the operation, which was conducted together with police from Colombia, Australia and other European countries.

An estimated five tonnes of cocaine were seized during the three-year operation.

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