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Mafia member who lived in Australia arrested at Rome airport over alleged drug ring

ABC News logo ABC News 24/06/2017 Connie Agius

Information from Australian authorities led to the arrest. © ABC News/ACIC Information from Australian authorities led to the arrest. Italian authorities have arrested a member of the powerful mafia group known as the 'Ndrangheta at Rome's international airport after being tipped off that he had departed Australia.

Bruno Crisafi booked a one-way ticket from Perth, where it is alleged he was protected by relatives in Australia.

An arrest warrant was issued for Crisafi's role in an international cocaine trafficking operation in Italy, but he managed to avoid capture before going on trial.

An Italian court found him guilty and sentenced him in absentia to 20 years in prison, and he was subject to an Interpol Red Notice.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) , in cooperation with Western Australia Police, alerted international authorities that Crisafi was on his way back to Italy.

They said the information led to his arrest at the Fiumicino Airport.

"The 'Ndrangheta is known as one of the most powerful criminal organisations in the world, adept at money-laundering, extortion and drug trafficking," ACIC CEO Chris Dawson said in a statement.

"Given the transnational nature of serious and organised crime, our relationships with national and international partners are more important than ever before, and this arrest is a testament to the value of these relationships."

The 'Ndrangheta manage at least 60 per cent of Europe's cocaine trade, and deal directly with Mexican and South American drug cartels for their supply. They also traffic heroin, cannabis and weapons.

Italian prosecutors claim the collective worth of the 'Ndrangheta families is in the billions, and the clans are known to move family members around the world.

They say the aim is to infiltrate political, social and economic institutions to achieve their criminal activities and launder their dirty cash, including in Australia.

It is the second time in 18 months a convicted member of the 'Ndrangheta has been arrested on their return to Italy from Australia.

Antonio Vottari was arrested in Rome after Italian police were tipped off that the fugitive, also convicted for his part in an international drug trafficking ring, was on his way back to Italy.

Vottari had lived in Australia for up to five years, despite a previous drug conviction, because Italian prosecutors had only issued a European arrest warrant. Australian authorities were allegedly none the wiser.

This latest arrest came on the same day the National Antimafia and Counter-Terrorism Directorate in Italy released its annual report.

The report highlighted an increased cooperation with Australian authorities to exchange information in the fight against the 'Ndrangheta, including visits from Australian police officials within the last 12 months.

The report also mentioned the murders of lawyer Joseph Acquaro in Melbourne and Pasquale Barbaro in Sydney last year, and their connections to the Madafferi family, some of which are in prison for several crimes, including the world's largest import of ecstasy hidden in tomato cans.

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