A notorious Italian mafia boss wanted for a range of drug trafficking offences has been arrested by authorities in Mexico after Italian police tracked him down using social media.
Giulio Perrone, who was one of Italy’s most wanted criminals, was held after police identified his whereabouts through Facebook.
The 64-year-old was detained in the city of Ciudad Madero in the state of Tamaulipas, a stronghold of some of the country’s major drugs cartels that is renowned for being one of Mexico’s most violent areas.
A convicted drug smuggler who had been on the run from the Italian authorities for more than two decades, Perrone is said to have built a new life for himself in Mexico, where he had assumed a new name, remarried and had children.
Using the alias Saverio Garcia Galiero, Perrone set up Facebook page featuring pictures of himself grinning widely as he soaked up the sun on a beach just south of Mexico’s border with the US.
As well as attracting “likes” from friends, the images on the page also drew the attention of anti-mafia investigators in Naples, who were soon able to establish the true identity of the smiling man in the pictures.
“This arrest is part of a larger strategy being coordinated by the anti-crime division of the Italian police to capture mafia fugitives who have been taking refuge abroad for many years,” the UK’s Daily Telegraph quoted authorities as saying in a statement.
After being arrested in 1993 for trafficking 16kgs of cocaine for the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, Perrone disappeared without a trace the following year while awaiting trial. He was officially declared a fugitive in 1998 after a Naples court found him guilty of international drug trafficking and sentenced him in his absence to 22 years behind bars.
Perrone, who is said to have worked with the Formicola, Mazzarella, Polverino and Tolomelli mafia clans, now faces the possibility of dying in an Italian jail after being deported back to his home country last Friday.
While anti-mafia investigators in Italy have not revealed exactly how they managed to find the Facebook account set up by Perrone under his new alias, they may have been monitoring his past associates’ social media platforms, or used facial recognition technology to scan multiple profiles.
The fact that “Galiero” was the maiden name of Perrone’s mother may also have played a part in attracting police attention to his Facebook profile more than two decades after he absconded.
Commenting on Perrone’s arrest, Antonio Mazzitelli, the UN representative on drugs and crime in Mexico, said joint operations between Mexican trafficking gangs and Italian mafia groups date back many years.