Italian 'top mafia boss' caught in Colombia

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Colombian police say they have caught the alleged boss of Italy's Calabrian mafia, who they described as Europe's most wanted drugs trafficker.

Roberto Pannunzi was detained in a shopping centre in the capital, Bogota, authorities said.

He had been on the run since 2010, when he fled from a clinic in Rome, where he was receiving treatment as a prisoner.

Italian prosecutors accuse Pannunzi of establishing the transatlantic cocaine trade between Italy and Colombia.

As alleged head of the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, he is suspected of helping to import up to two tonnes of cocaine into Europe per month.

The Italian was detained on Friday with the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Colombian defence ministry said in a statement.

"Pannunzi, known as the Pablo Escobar of Italy, was the most wanted man in the country," the defence ministry said in a twitter post.

"When he was captured, Pannunzi identified himself with a fake Venezuelan identification card bearing the name Silvano Martino," the ministry said.

Roberto Pannunzi was first detained in Colombia in 1994 and extradited to Italy but was released when his detention order expired.

He was re-arrested in 2004 and later convicted. But he staged an dramatic escape from a private hospital in Rome in 2010, where he was being treated for heart disease.

Italian authorities have described the 'Ndrangheta as the country's most dangerous and wealthiest crime syndicate, overtaking the Sicilian Mafia and becoming one of the world's biggest criminal organisations.

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