Italian mafia boss arrested in Madrid two years after he was mistakenly released from prison

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Mafia ‘boss of bosses’ is arrested in Madrid carrying £5,000 in cash and six mobile phones, two years after he was mistakenly released from prison

  • Domenico Paviglianiti, 60, was a leader of ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful organised crime syndicate
  • He was arrested in Madrid in a joint operation by the Spanish and Italian police 
  • Paviglianiti had fake Portuguese documentation, £5,000 and six phones on him 










A mafia ‘boss of bosses’ was arrested by Spanish police Thursday morning on the streets of Madrid two years after he was mistakenly released from prison.

Domenico Paviglianiti was a leader of Italy‘s most powerful organised crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta, which controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade.

Now one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives, the 60-year-old was picked up on the streets of Madrid’s working-class Cuatro Caminos neighbourhood in a joint operation carried out with Italian police, Spain‘s National Police said in a statement. 

Paviglianiti was picked up on the streets of Madrid¿s working-class Cuatro Caminos neighbourhood in a joint operation carried out with Italian police, Spain¿s National Police said in a statement. Above, Paviglianiti's arrest

Paviglianiti was picked up on the streets of Madrid’s working-class Cuatro Caminos neighbourhood in a joint operation carried out with Italian police, Spain’s National Police said in a statement. Above, Paviglianiti’s arrest 

Domenico Paviglianiti was a leader of Italy¿s most powerful organised crime syndicate, the ¿Ndrangheta, which controls much of Europe¿s cocaine trade

Domenico Paviglianiti was a leader of Italy’s most powerful organised crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta, which controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade

He was carrying fake Portuguese documentation at the time of his arrest as well as £5,000 in cash and six mobile phones, the police added.

Paviglianiti helped control mafia operations in Italy’s north and in South America in his heyday.

He was dubbed ‘the boss of the bosses’ by Italian media for his role in crimes committed in the 1980s and 1990s, including murder and drug trafficking.

Paviglianiti was originally arrested in Spain in 1996 and extradited three years later to Italy, where he began serving a life sentence, one typically given for top mafia criminals.

But his lawyers argued that Spain’s extradition conditions did not recognise life imprisonment, a technicality that allowed his early release after serving over 20 years.

After his release Paviglianiti ‘drove around in an armoured vehicle out of fear of being hit by a gang attack and his criminal activities allegedly focused on trafficking weapons and drugs,’ a statement from the Spanish interior ministry said. 

Italian prosecutors then issued an arrest warrant for him following a ruling by a high court that found that he had been erroneously released in 2019. 

Spanish police located part of Paviglianiti’s family in Barcelona, where he lived for several months before moving to Madrid. 

Police regularly detain members of Italian mafia in Spain, the main entryway into Europe for cocaine from Latin America and cannabis from north Africa.

'Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy's boot. Above, a younger Paviglianiti

‘Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot. Above, a younger Paviglianiti 

The ‘Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot. In January 2021 the biggest ever trial into the mafia took place in Calabria.

The organisation is considered the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy, having surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra, thanks to the wealth it has amassed as the main importer and wholesaler of cocaine produced in Latin America and smuggled into Europe via north Africa and southern Italy.

The name ‘Ndrangheta comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty and the organisation’s tight clan-based structure has made it hard to penetrate.

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