Love of Soccer Leads to Arrest of Mobster Linked to Italy’s Camorra Mafia

Posted on: August 7, 2023, 09:02h. 

Last updated on: August 7, 2023, 02:16h.

The success of Italian Serie A soccer club Napoli has led to the capture of one of the country’s most wanted fugitives. Vincenzo La Porta, a high-ranking figure of the Camorra mob, had been hiding out from the law for 11 years — until he appeared in a photo of Napoli fans as they celebrated their favorite team’s first Serie A victory in over three decades. The Camorra is a mafia similar to the ‘Ndrangheta that has alleged ties to money laundering, global organized crime, gambling, and other activities.

Fans of the Italian soccer team Napoli celebrate its championship in May
Fans of the Italian soccer team Napoli celebrate its championship in May. A mobster’s love for the team stopped his 11-year life on the lam. (Image: Associated Press)

The photo showed a group of people celebrating the victory in an Italian restaurant on the Greek island of Corfu. La Porta is somewhat visible as he holds a blue and white scarf, although Italian authorities weren’t 100% positive until they caught him.

La Porta was detained last Friday while riding a moped after being identified through the image. He appeared in court on Saturday to begin the extradition process.

Italy’s Most Wanted

Napoli’s title at the end of the 2022-23 season in May was an unexpected ally of the authorities. It was the club’s first title win since 1990, beating Udinese to emerge from the drought.

Months of collaboration among Italian authorities led to a relentless pursuit of the elusive fugitive hiding in Greece. Comprehensive investigations involved in-depth scrutiny of the financial ties within La Porta’s circle of supporters and an examination of the online social media footprint of Napoli soccer fans in Corfu.

Almost 23 years ago, the Italian authorities found La Porta guilty on a number of charges and sentenced him to 14 years for conspiracy, tax evasion, and fraud. He was sentenced in absentia and has been on Italy’s 100 most wanted criminals list ever since.

The owner of a local restaurant in Corfu told the authorities that La Porta had been working for him as an assistant chef for the past month. In statements to the local media, La Porta’s lawyer said that he had been living a clean life and that extradition could cause him irreparable health issues.

Extradition Becomes Political Tool

Authorities haven’t said how long it will take for the extradition process to be completed or if there’s a guarantee it will be granted. While Italy and Greece are both part of the European Convention on Extradition, Greece doesn’t always approve requests from its neighbor.

Most notably in 1988, it rejected a request for the extradition of accused terrorist and member of Italy’s Red Brigades, Mauricio Folini. The government blocked the Supreme Court’s approval of Italy’s request on political grounds.

Italy has blocked extraditions, as well, including as recently as this year. Romania tried to extradite a former government official, Ionel Arsene, a few months ago and failed.

Italy’s laws, according to Radio Europa, state that an Italian judge can refuse an extradition request if the target has been a resident of Italy for at least five years. As a result, these requests often become political tools, with governments using them to try to manipulate external relations.

Camorra Has Extensive History in Italy

The Camorra is considered one of the most dangerous and violent criminal organizations in Italy. It’s the oldest criminal organization in the country, with its origin dating to the 14th century in the city of Naples.

During Italy’s fascist regime, the Camorra was harshly punished, and it was believed that it had disappeared. However, it reappeared in the mid-’60s, culminating in its great outbreak in the ’90s. The group reemerged during a time that saw greater animosity between Naples’ lower and upper classes because of an enormous economic and social crisis that plunged thousands into poverty.

Corruption and political corruption gave more power to the Camorra, which seemed to take control and act as an intermediary between the lower classes and the powerful.

The organization is allegedly involved in almost everything illegal, including extortion, drug trafficking, gambling, sexual exploitation, and murder. Since the late ’90s, the Camorra has been prosecuted and has seen its influence decline. But it remains active.

While not as visible as it was previously, the Camorra has reportedly extended its reach beyond Italy, establishing strong connections in Spain.