Mafioso caught after 16 years on the run working as a pizza chef

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Edgardo Greco, a convicted murderer linked to one of Italy’s most powerful mafia organisations, has finally been arrested in France after almost 17 years on the run. The 63-year-old was caught by Interpol in Saint-Etienne, where he has lived since 2014. He had been running an Italian restaurant and working in various establishments for at least three years, according to French prosecutors.

In the early Noughties, Greco managed to escape temporary police custody in Italy after he was handed a life sentence in 2006 for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo. 

In a statement, Italian police said the pair were beaten to death with metal bars in a fish warehouse in the region of Calabria in Southern Italy in January 1991. Their bodies were believed to have been dissolved in acid. The police said: “Their bodies were made to disappear and never found again.” 

According to gang leaders, the Bartolomeo brothers’ killings were ordered by rivals as the pair were attempting to expand their business, in the process interfering with other crime organisations.  

Greco has also been accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro, which is said to be part of the “mafia war” between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs of the Nineties. 

It is suspected that Greco belonged to ‘Ndrangheta which is described by Interpol as one of the most “extensive and powerful” criminal organisations in the world, originating from Calabria. Its connections stretch across Europe and reach as far as South America with ties to the cocaine trade. 

From June to November 2021, Greco — who went by the name Paolo Dimitrio — was the owner of Caffe Rossini Ristorante, a traditional Italian restaurant in Saint-Etienne, according to French prosecutors. 

Local press reported a story about the restaurant’s debut with the headline “Paolo Dimitrio opened the restaurant of his dreams” in June of that year. He also worked at other Italian restaurants in the French city, documents seen by Agence France-Presse show. 

On Thursday, February 2, he was formally notified of Italy’s arrest warrant and was placed in detention after his arrest. 

The murders of the Bartolomeo brothers sparked a major shift in the ‘Ndrangheta organisation, with many turning on each other and changing allegiance by becoming informants to help the authorities. 

A week ago, Italian police announced that it had cracked down on the ‘Ndrangheta, seizing more than €250million (£223million) assets with 56 people, most of whom were already in prison, put under criminal investigation for crimes from kidnapping and bribery to mafia-related conspiracy. 

Greco’s is the second high-profile mafia arrest in a matter of weeks. 

Italy’s most wanted mobster, Matteo Messina Denaro, was convicted in absentia of a string of murders in 2002 and had been on the run for some 30 years. But last month, the notorious mobster was finally caught. 

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In January, Denaro, who has been described as the “boss of bosses” of the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, was arrested while visiting a clinic in Palermo, Sicily. 

The 60-year-old had booked an appointment under the name Andrea Bonafede. But when approached by a policeman asking his name, he simply said: “You know who I am. I am Matteo Messina Denaro.”

He was thought to be the protege of Totò Riina, another leader of the Cosa Nostra, who was arrested after more than two decades on the run in 1993. That very year, Denaro went into hiding, but did so in plain sight, protected by those powerful in Sicily and further afield, until now.  

Riina was one of Italy’s most feared mobsters, described as the “fiercest and nastiest” in history. From prison, he ordered the murder of a 13-year-old boy. In total, it was thought he ordered the murder of more than 150 people. He died in prison from cancer at the age of 87 in 2017. 

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