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Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:26 UK

'Mafia crocodile' seized in Italy

A crocodile with open jaws (file image)
Police say the crocodile was fed live rabbits on the terrace

Italian police say they have seized a crocodile they believe was used by a suspected mafia boss to terrorise people into paying protection money.

The reptile was 1.7m (5.5ft) long and weighed 40kg (88lb). It was found during a weapons search at the man's home in the southern town of Caserta.

It was kept on the terrace and fed live rabbits in full view of neighbouring homes, police said.

The mafia suspect was charged with illegal animal possession.

The crocodile has been sent to a rehabilitation centre.

Maurizio Vallone, head of Italy's anti-mafia squad, said the animal had been held in a secure area of the terrace fitted with high-tech video surveillance.

He said the owner of the home was suspected of running several protection rackets in Caserta, where the Camorra branch of the Naples mafia is active.

No weapons were found on the premises, he said.



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