Italian drugs kingpin suspect arrested in Dubai, police confirm

One of Italy's most wanted men, Raffaele Imperiale, is held along with his right-hand man with cash and paintings seized

Raffaele Imperiale and Raffaele Mauriello who were arrested in Dubai. Photo: Dubai Police
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One of Italy's most wanted men, who allegedly traded two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the black market, has been arrested in Dubai.

The force said they raided the residence of Raffaele Imperiale, 46, on July 30.

He is alleged to be a drugs kingpin of Naples' feared Camorra organised crime syndicate.

Valuables including cash and paintings were seized in the raid.

Imperiale had been using an alias and trying to hide his movements to remain "in the shadows", officers said.

On August 14, Dubai Police also arrested Imperiale's right-hand man, Raffaele Mauriello, 31, who they said was "responsible for plotting and executing murders and assassinations using unlicensed firearms".

Imperiale and Mauriello are wanted by Italian authorities and Interpol who have issued "red notices" against them.

Dubai Police said it apprehended Imperiale despite the fact he was impersonating someone else using a fake identity under the name of "Antonio Rocco".

Deliberate subterfuge

The force said he used different cars to hide his daily movements and lived in an isolated home to monitor those who approached him. He intentionally had avoided registering a precise address to mislead authorities and remain in the shadows, officers said.

Imperiale's residence was raided after he was placed under constant surveillance for a week. Officers also seized large sums of cash, luxury watches and valuables including paintings.

Artificial intelligence and Dubai's Oyoon (eyes) network of more than 300,000 security cameras helped the investigation.

The men's cases have been transferred to Dubai's Public Prosecution which which "determine the mechanism for their extradition".

Interpol said its network had helped secure the arrests.

“No matter how much wealth or power fugitives accumulate, or how far they travel, police work does not stop," said Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock, welcoming the arrests.

"Cases such as this underline the power of international police cooperation via Interpol's global network more than ever."

Brig Jamal Al Jallaf, director of the Criminal Investigation Department at Dubai Police, praised the efforts of all investigating teams who were able to reveal the true identity of Imperiale.

Imperiale has been sought by Italy for alleged international drug trafficking since January 2016. Italy's Interior Ministry said he was considered one of the nation's "most dangerous and most wanted fugitives".

Imperiale was also wanted for money laundering, police said.

Stolen masterpieces

In 2016, two Van Gogh works, stolen from an Amsterdam museum, were found hidden in a farmhouse on property owned by Imperiale in the town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples.

“The wealth illicitly accumulated allowed him to buy on the black market two Van Gogh paintings of unquantifiable value,” Italian police said.

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.

Italian financial police found the paintings wrapped in cotton sheets, stuffed into a box and hidden behind a bathroom wall.

The artworks were discovered when police seized property from Imperiale and another reputed Camorra drug kingpin.

Police said Imperiale gave an interview to Naples newspaper Il Mattino this year in which he denied any involvement in the theft of the paintings and claimed he bought the works because he is a passionate art lover.

His arrest was a result of an investigation co-ordinated by Naples prosecutors and conducted by police officers and the financial police’s organised crime division in the city.

Updated: August 26, 2021, 5:24 AM