‘Ndrangheta Mob Boss Behind Illegal Gambling and Drug Trade Captured

Posted on: April 28, 2023, 03:25h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2023, 01:52h.

Police arrested Pasquale Bonavota on Thursday in Genoa. Bonavota is one of the leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta crime family, known for controlling illegal gambling and drugs worldwide.

'Ndrangheta mafia boss Pasquale Bonavota in a mug shot.
‘Ndrangheta mafia boss Pasquale Bonavota in a mug shot. Italian police arrested him after five years on the run. (Image: Gazzetta del Sud)

Bonavota, 49, has been a fugitive since November 2018. Facing murder and corruption charges, he bought his way to freedom and slipped away, going underground until now. Police arrested Bonavota while he was entering, of all places, a church. His brother, Nicola, was also with him and was arrested.

The ‘Ndrangheta clan, based in the Calabrian region in southern Italy, has been running a global network of illegal operations for decades. They’re considered the richest and most powerful mafia in Italy, controlling the entry of cocaine into Europe.

The organization has been accused of money laundering, drug trafficking, investment scams, and theft, among other crimes. The family has a presence in more than 40 countries. They often allegedly use companies and frontmen to invest their illegal profits in the legal economy.

Bonavota has allegedly headed a branch of the ‘Ndrangheta clan since he was 16, according to previous investigations.

Previous Crimes

Bonavota was sentenced to life imprisonment for two murders in 2004 and 2014. One target was someone in his own clan, and the other was a rival mob boss. He fled shortly after that conviction.

The sentence was annulled in 2021 by an appeals court, but that didn’t exonerate him from other crimes. The massive trial of ‘Ndrangheta figures – upwards of 300 – currently taking place in Italy had him listed as one of the defendants. The police raids that rounded up all of those suspects missed capturing Bonavota.

He remained on the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s most wanted list, according to Italian media outlet La Stampa. His arrest follows an investigation by the special units of the Carabinieri, Italy’s national police force, which collaborated with the country’s Anti-Mafia Investigation Division in Calabria to bring him down.

Continued Arrests

Bonvota is also under investigation for allegedly laundering money through cryptocurrency investments. Twenty-five people have already been investigated in Hungary related to that case, according to police reports.

Bonavota’s arrest comes three months after Italian police arrested Matteo Messina Denaro. He was the leader of the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra and had been a fugitive for three decades.

Edgardo Greco, another ‘Ndrangheta heavyweight hiding in France, was also arrested in February. Greco had been on the lam for over 16 years.