Claudia D’Este (72 ), a former gang member from the Veneto Mala del Brenta province, was arrested in the Croatian capital Zagreb on New Years’s eve on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Italy, where he is due to serve a ten-year prison sentence for cocaine and heroin trafficking.
D’Este was one of the leading figures in the Mala del Brenta mafia organisation under the leadership of Felice Manier, supplying drugs to the northeastern Italian province.
D’Este was arrested for the first time in 1976 on charges of smuggling and possession of weapons, before turning to drug trafficking, for which he served six months in prison in 1991, following a conviction.
He was again arrested in 1997 and sentenced to 17 years and 10 months in prison. However he was released just two years later, following which he is thought to have absconded to Croatia to avoid a retrial in Italy.
D’Este was arrested at his home, where he lived with his wife, who worked at a casino he owned in the Croatian city of Novigrad, and their daughter. He was found to be in possession of forged identity documents when he was detained.
He was captured by a special unit of the Croatian police, the so-called “fast team”, which specialises in tracking down internationally wanted criminals.
“I must thank the Venice Mobile Team, which, with the precious and effective input from the central body, has allowed the identification and the capture in Zagreb of D’Este, a delinquent who with his drug trafficking has polluted the health of entire generations” said Carlo Mastelloni, head of the district attorney’s office of Trieste.