Arrest of Domenico Paviglianiti in Madrid

Mafia arrests in Madrid and Rome


This week, police in Rome and Madrid arrested two Mafia bosses. Reputed mafia ‘godmother’ Maria Licciardi, of Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate and Domenico Paviglianiti, of the ‘Ndrangheta are now in custody.

Spain appears to be a mafia hiding place. Maria Licciardi was arrested boarding a flight for Spain and Domenico Paviglianiti detained in Madrid.

The reputed ‘godmother’ of a top Naples crime syndicate, Maria Licciardi, was arrested as she was about to board a flight to Spain, Italian authorities said. In a separate investigation, Spanish and Italian police cooperated in the arrest of Domenico Paviglianiti who has been on the run for the last two years.

Allegedly ran extortion rackets

The interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, praised the arrest of Maria Licciardi, 70, by Carabinieri officers on the orders of Naples prosecutors.

The Carabinieri press office posted a dispatch by the Italian news agency ANSA saying that Licciardi was arrested at Ciampino airport, Rome, as she checked in luggage for a flight to Spain.

It is alleged Licciardi ran extortion rackets as head of the Licciardi Camorra crime syndicate clan.

“She didn’t bat an eyelash when the officers blocked her and served the warrant signed by the Naples prosecutors’ office,” ANSA said.

Licciardi was arrested the first time in 2001. She figured among the top 30 wanted fugitives in Italy. Released in 2009, after serving time for mafia-connected crimes, Naples prosecutors described her as a true ‘madrina’ (godmother).

Nicknamed by mobsters “a piccirella” (the little one) for her petite build, Licciardi was one of the victors in a long-running blood feud between alliances of clans that left Naples littered nearly daily with bodies earlier this century, prosecutors say.

The extortion of local business owners, drug trafficking and the infiltration of public works contracts are traditional sources of illicit revenue for the Naples-based Camorra. The Camorra is one of Italy’s major crime syndicates.

‘The boss of the bosses’

Known in the 1980s and 90s as ‘the boss of bosses’, Domenico Paviglianiti was leading an apparently quiet life in Madrid. He had been on the run from Italian authorities for two years.

Italy’s authorities wan Paviglianiti for numerous crimes. They believe he instigated nearly 130 murders.

He had been on the run for nearly two years after being released early from an Italian prison in October 2019. Prosecutors believe Paviglianiti is the head of one of the clans of the ‘Ndrangheta. The organised crime syndicate based in Calabria controls much of the cocaine trade in Europe.

Investigators immediately looked to Spain, where Paviglianiti had been active in the 1980s and 90s.

In a joint operation, the Spanish police and Carabinieri detained Paviglianiti, 60, on Tuesday. He was walking out of the Madrid home where he was hiding.

“He was a little heavier,” said Italian police sources. They added members of the ‘Ndrangueta typically keep low profiles and make no statements when arrested. This is “to avoid any wrong steps in their defence strategy.” Spanish police officers confirmed that “he was very calm and only said that this was all a mistake by the Italian authorities.”

At the time of his arrest, Paviglianiti was carrying a fake Portuguese ID, a cellphone and €6,000 in cash. There were five more cellphones in his home, which he shared with a Latin American woman and her teenage son.

Not his first arrest in Spain

“Paviglianiti is among the top three fugitives wanted by the Italian justice system,” said an officer who participated in the operation.

Paviglianiti has been arrested in Spain before. In 1996, police held him in Madrid as an operation brought down 16 other members of his organisation.

He was extradited to Italy to serve time for various crimes, including murder and drug trafficking. However, Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down the extradition in 2000 leading to his release.

Crimes date back to the 1980s

Pavigliniati’s crimes go back to the days of clan warfare between 1985 and 1991. That resulted in around 700 deaths and redefined the hierarchy of the ‘Ndrangheta.

His arrest comes on the back of a January request by Italian prosecutors in Bologna. They realised Paviglianiti had fled Italy after being erroneously released too early from the prison. He had been serving a 30-year sentence.

This year a court handed him a further 11 years and eight months for murder and criminal association.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the police initially focused on Barcelona, where one of his daughters travelled to from time to time. “They were never in direct contact with each other, only through intermediaries,” said an Italian officer. Authorities in Italy also learned through wiretaps that other relatives were planning to travel to Spain.

In May, another ‘Ndrangheta boss, Rocco Morabito, was arrested in Brazil.

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