ROME (AP) — Hometown passion for this year’s soccer champions from Naples has betrayed the hideout of a longtime crime fugitive from Italy, who was captured while riding a motor scooter on a Greek island, Italian police said Saturday.
Naples-based Carabinieri paramilitary police said the man, who was on Italy’s list of 100 most dangerous fugitives, was spotted in a photo of fans in a restaurant in Corfu, who were celebrating after the Napoli soccer squad clinched Italy’s top league championship a few weeks ago.
Police then headed to Corfu to tail the fugitive, identified by them as 60-year-old Vincenzo La Porta, who had been on the lam for 11 years.
They didn’t specify when his recent arrest was carried out, but said officers blocked him going down a Corfu street on a motor scooter. Greek police later said La Porta was arrested on Friday.
La Porta, considered close to a crime clan of the Naples-based Camorra syndicate, has been convicted in absentia of criminal association, tax evasion and fraud, the police said.
According to the owner of a different restaurant on the island, La Porta had been working there as an assistant chef for the last month or so.
Police in Corfu said he appeared before a prosecutor on Saturday and was ordered held in jail until a panel of appeals court judges rules on the extradition request.
Italy wants him extradited so he can serve a prison sentence of 14 years and four months.
“We will say he does not want to be extradited,” Athanassios Giannakouris, La Porta’s lawyer told the Associated Press. “He was sentenced long ago for tax offenses. He has started a new family in Greece … He has a 9-year-old boy and is working as a cook to get by. He suffers from heart ailments. If he’s extradited, he and his family will be ruined,” Giannakouris added.
Police said they had been following La Porta’s online activity, including financial movements, and waited for him to make a false move that could tip them off to his whereabouts.
“Betraying him was his passion for soccer and for the Napoli team,” police said in a statement.” With the championship victory, La Porta couldn’t resist celebrating.”
Investigators spotted him in a photo of celebrants of the restaurant, where he was holding in his hands a scarf in the sky-blue colors of his hometown team.