Drug trafficker offers €70m Dubai island for reduced jail term

Raffaele Imperiale was living under an alias when captured in the emirate in 2021 and extradited to Italy

Raffaele Imperiale speaks to police during a raid on his luxury home in Dubai. Photo: Dubai Police
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Mafia boss Raffaele Imperiale has offered to hand over a €70 million island off the coast of Dubai to Italian authorities in exchange for a reduction in his prison sentence.

Once Italy's most wanted man, Imperiale, 49, was apprehended in 2021 by police in Dubai, who found him hiding out in a luxury villa following a surveillance operation. He had been on the run since 2016.

Following his extradition, he stood trial along with 20 other defendants in Naples on drugs and money laundering offences.

On Monday, the court heard Imperiale was willing to hand over the island, which is part of The World constellation of islands off the coast of Dubai, to reduce his prison sentence.

Prosecutors have requested the court hand the member of the Camorra crime syndicate a sentence of 14 years and nine months.

He claims he paid €12 million for the island, which forms part of the artificial archipelago constructed in the shape of a world map. He now estimates it is worth €70 million.

Imperiale will have to wait for a decision from the court on whether it will take his offer into account.

It is alleged he ran one of the world's largest drugs gangs along with notorious Dutch criminal Ridouan Taghi, reputed Irish gang boss Daniel Kinahan and Bosnian drug trafficker Edin Gacanin.

After he went on the run, police discovered two stolen Van Gogh paintings hidden behind a bathroom wall in a farmhouse on property he owned in the town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples.

View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884-1885) were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002.

During his time in Dubai, he was living under an alias and came to the authorities' attention when he attended a meeting with Mr Kinahan and others in the Burj Al Arab hotel.

On his arrest, Dubai Police seized large sums of cash, jewellery, paintings and cars.

The force said he used different cars to hide his daily movements and lived in an isolated home, carefully monitoring those who approached his property. He intentionally avoided registering a precise address to mislead authorities, police said.

Artificial intelligence and Dubai's Oyoon network of security cameras helped in the investigation.

Last year, the UAE froze assets related to the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, an Irish drug-trafficking gang whose members have been hit with US sanctions.

Updated: November 28, 2023, 4:15 PM