Dutch police arrest top suspect in German mafia killings
An alleged top member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia grouping, the suspect is suspected of having led a shootout that left six rival clan members dead outside a pizzeria in Duisburg, western Germany, in August 2007.
The Hague -- Dutch authorities said Friday they had arrested the top suspect in a 2007 mafia massacre in Germany, in a town near Amsterdam where he had been lying low in a modest block of flats.
Giovanni Strangio, 30, was arrested in the town of Diemen, east of the capital, on Thursday night, said a statement by the national prosecution authority.
An alleged top member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia grouping, he is suspected of having led a shootout that left six rival clan members dead outside a pizzeria in Duisburg, western Germany, in August 2007.
Strangio was one of the most wanted people in Germany and Italy. Another alleged 'Ndrangheta member, 41-year-old Francesco Romeo, was arrested with him.
Renato Cortese, head of the Calabria police intervention force, said in Reggio Calabria in Italy that Strangio had "led an absolutely irreproachable life" in the Netherlands.
And a member of the squad that carried out the arrest said that Strangio was in his pyjamas and "so confused and surprised that he couldn't say a word," according to the ANSA news agency.
Strangio and Romeo had paid for everything in cash to avoid being traced, the officer said, adding they must have thought "we wouldn't come back" after the arrest in November of Strangio's brother-in-law Giuseppe Nirta in Amsterdam on charges of drug trafficking and suspected involvement in the Duisburg killings.
Strangio was described as slender, of average height, with dark hair and blue eyes.
"The fugitive Italian went out rarely, and then only in disguise," said the Dutch statement.
It added a firearm and ammunition was found at his home, where Strangio lived with his wife and child.
Spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP that investigators also found fake identity documents and equipment with which to produce more, as well as "a huge amount of cash" that was still being counted.
The bodies of six clan members, aged between 16 and 39, were found in the boots of two cars near the Da Bruno restaurant in Duisburg on August 15, 2007. The execution-style killings in the early morning hours threw an international spotlight on a long-running vendetta between the Nirta-Strangio and Pelle-Vottari clans of the 'Ndrangheta mafia, one of four operating in Italy.
Dozens of suspected mafiosi went on trial last year following a probe into the feud that began well before the Duisburg massacre, claiming nearly 20 lives since 1991.
Investigators point to a cycle of reprisals following the murder on Christmas Day 2006 of Maria Strangio, clan leader Giovanni Nirta's wife.
Italy's Eurispes social studies institute estimated 'Ndrangheta's turnover from trafficking in drugs and arms, prostitution and extortion in 2007 at 44 billion euros (65 billion dollars), the equivalent of 2.9 percent of Italy's gross domestic product.
Calabria said that with Strangio's arrest "we have reached a good juncture for closing the investigation into the Duisburg massacre."
Strangio and Romeo will appear in an Amsterdam court shortly for the start of an extradition procedure.
The investigation had been conducted in close collaboration with police in Germany and Italy, said the Dutch statement.