Bruno Carbone: One of Europe’s most wanted criminals arrested in Syria

An Italian drug trafficker, one of Europe’s most wanted criminals, has been arrested in Syria and extradited to Italy, according to Italian officials and a Syrian jihadist rebel group.

Bruno Carbone, the last major drug trafficker from the Naples region still on the run, was apprehended on Tuesday as he stepped off a plane at Rome’s Ciampino airport, the Neapolitan police said in a statement.

Carbone, 45, sentenced in absentia in Italy to 20 years in prison for international drug trafficking along the Spain-Naples-Sicily route, had been on the run since 2003.

Carbone is known as a close associate of Camorra’s Raffaele Imperiale. Imperiale – herself regarded as one of the largest drug traffickers in the world – was arrested in Dubai in 2021.

It was initially unclear where Carbone was caught, with domestic outlets in Italy reporting he had also been apprehended in the United Arab Emirates, where he had spent much of his time on the run.

Mohammed Sankari, an official of the jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in northwestern Syria, stated that in March Carbone was detained “as he passed through the ‘liberated’ areas (of the country) … with the aim of the regions under the control of (Bashar al-Assad’s) regime”.

Carbone was extradited after several months of questioning, according to HTS, which also released his mugshot.

Carbone’s claims that he was a Mexican citizen and evaded authorities in his home country for selling fake luxury watches aroused suspicion about his real identity, Muhammad Abdel Rahman, the interior minister of the areas controlled by the rebel government from the rescue of Carbone, said. Syria, to Asharq Al-Awsat, a UK-based Arabic language outlet.

Emirates officials allegedly brokered the extradition on Wednesday, Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported.

‘Catch me if you can’, in Italian style

In December 2020, Carbone was reported to have been arrested in Dubai following announcements made by domestic authorities.

The arrested man turned out to be a businessman from Naples and was released from prison after just over a month.

HTS claims that the person arrested at the time was an “individual (who) was sent to Bruno’s house as bait so that he could still evade the authorities”.

Carbone colluded with Colombian smugglers and supplied cocaine to the clans of the Camorra – one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, located in the Naples area.

He also allegedly used the same connections to supply cocaine to another prominent organized crime syndicate, Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta.

Tahrir al-Sham was created in 2017 after the merger of several Islamist and jihadist groups, including the Al-Nusra Front.

Although it has publicly split from al-Qaeda, the organization is believed to share similar beliefs with the likes of the so-called Islamic State.

It has seen its strength and influence grow in northwestern Syria after capturing the key city of Idlib in mid-October.

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