wanted man  | 

Italian Justice Minister jets to Dubai to request Kinahan ally Raffaele Imperiale's extradition

Ranked number two on Italy’s most wanted fugitive list, Imperiale was arrested last August as he basked by a swimming pool at his luxury villa

Justice Minister Cartabia delivers the fresh request to her United Arab Emirates counterpart Abdullah Al Nuaimi for the extradition of Raffaele Imperiale. PHOTO: Ministero Giustizia (Twitter)

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Italian Justice Minister Marta Cartabia has arrived in Dubai to deliver her country’s request for the extradition of Camorra drug trafficker and Daniel Kinahan associate, Raffaele Imperiale.

Ranked number two on Italy’s most wanted fugitive list, Imperiale was arrested last August as he basked by a swimming pool at his luxury villa.

He was with his family when police swooped and found him with a Russian passport.

In January authorities in the United Arab Emirates turned down a request for the extradition of the notorious narco by Italian authorities who consider him to be a major crime figure.

When this initial extradition request was turned down, concerns rose that he would be welcome to live out his days in the Middle East.

A new request that was then issued by the Public Prosecutor's Office in Naples included details of crimes they believe he committed, and confirmation by the Supreme Court that he had been sentenced to five years and 10 months since he escaped to Dubai.

Now, Justice Minister Cartabia has delivered the fresh request to her United Arab Emirates counterpart Abdullah Al Nuaimi in which she urged a prompt execution of all Italian extradition requests and voiced the hope that judicial cooperation between the two countries would become more fruitful.

She also signed a judicial cooperation accord enabling convicted criminals to serve jail terms in their countries of origin.

Aside from running a criminal organisation back in his native Italy, it is understood UAE authorities were told Imperiale ran his money-laundering operation from the Gulf.

An initial extradition application focused on his membership of Europe's so-called 'Super Cartel' along with Kinahan, Balkan mob boss Edin Gacanin and the caged Dutch mafia head Ridouan Taghi.

Raffaele Imperiale (inset) is a known associate of Daniel Kinahan

Nicknamed 'Lelluccio', Imperiale who is a known associate of Kinahan’s and was a guest at the Irish crime boss's 2017 wedding in Dubai, is believed to be one of the leaders of a 'super-cartel' which controls a major portion of Europe's lucrative cocaine trade.

Prosecutors also claim Imperiale has ties with the leaders of Holland's notorious 'Mocro Maffia', led by Ridouan Taghi.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) documents sent to Dutch police identified Imperiale, Dutch mobster Taghi, Bosnian criminal Edin Gačanin, Richard 'El Rico' Riquelme Vega and Daniel Kinahan as the heads of the so-called ‘super drug cartel'.

According to the DEA, Imperiale, Taghi and Edin Gačanin also attended Kinahan’s wedding at the plush Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai in 2017.

The alleged drug kingpin was nabbed on August 4 after an extensive investigation involving Naples’s organized crime squad, public prosecutor’s office, financial crimes police, and other state authorities.

Local authorities rejected a previous request made by Italy’s DDA (Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia - Anti-Mafia District Directorate – to have him extradited to Italy that prompted a the second attempt to have him face justice.

According to the Italian Il Mattino newspaper, which cites journalistic sources from Dubai, this extradition request made by the Naples Public Prosecutor and the Ministry of Justice against Imperiale had been accepted.

“(Imperiale) has been in prison in Dubai since August 2021 and the Italian justice system has tried to obtain extradition but without success,” one report reads.

“Now, however, the Prosecutor's Office is trying again and hopes to get the long-awaited green light to try Imperiale, which will undoubtedly reveal the background relating to the world of Neapolitan organized crime.

“Within a few days the verdict should arrive from the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, but optimism certainly filters from the rooms of the Prosecutor's Office.”

Imperiale is considered by the Antimafia to be at the centre of an international drug trafficking route from South America-Amsterdam-Naples-Dubai.

The DEA documents described the ‘super drugs cartel’ as one of the world’s fifty largest drug cartels, with a virtual monopoly of the Peruvian cocaine trade.

The documents said the ‘super drugs cartel’ controlled around a third of the cocaine trade into Europe – with the main point of access through Dutch ports.

Born in Italy, Imperiale’s criminal career began in earnest in 1996 when an older brother who died bequeathed him the Rockland coffee shop in Amsterdam.

From here Imperiale is alleged to have embarked on his criminal career by selling ‘soft’ drugs before expanding into cocaine trafficking with Dutch drug trader Rick van de Bunt.

Imperiale was later introduced by Antonio Orefice, a member of the Moccia clan, and to Elio Amato, brother of Raffaele Amato, who was at that time one of the top drug traffickers of the Di Lauro clan.

During those years Imperiale earned millions of euros, becoming the point of contact for the Di Lauro’s organization in dealing with drug trafficking cartels in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

In March of last year further evidence emerged of the links between the Kinahan cartel and Imperiale at the trial of Richard ‘El Rico’ Riquelme Vega in Amsterdam.

Judges heard briefly from the prosecution how Kinahan, was a “regular contact” of Riquelme’s and was in a video on a phone seized from him following his arrest and extradition to Holland from Chile in 2017

In June, Riquelme was sentenced to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of operating an assassination ring and laundering drug money.

His trial heard he had exchanged phone messages organising gangland murders with jailed drug boss Taghi.

Meanwhile, Taghi is facing accusations relating to six gangland murders in the Netherlands as well as drugs trafficking charges.

A leader of the notorious Mocro Maffia, Dutch media claim Taghi was behind the murder of well-known crime journalist Peter De Vries who had been advising and acting as a confidant for a witness in a case against Taghi, when he was gunned down in Amsterdam in July.

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