An Italian organized crime suspect was caught in the Caribbean after police tracked him down through cooking videos he had uploaded online, in which he managed to hide his face but not his distinctive tattoos.
Marc Feren Claude Biart had been wanted on drug trafficking charges since 2014, and was located by authorities who recognized his tattoos on video, the International Criminal Police Organization, Interpol, said. They believe he is a member of the ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful and brutal crime syndicate that originated in the southern region of Calabria and has expanded worldwide.
Biart, 53, had been living in the Dominican Republic town of Boca Chica for five years, where he kept a low profile and posted cooking videos to a YouTube channel started with his wife, Italian authorities said in a statement reported by NBC News. They said his “love for Italian cuisine” made the arrest possible.
Police said Biart had been wanted since 2014 for allegedly trafficking cocaine into the Netherlands. He was arrested last Wednesday and arrived in Italy this week, as seen in a video posted to Twitter by Interpol.
The ‘Ndrangheta is described by Interpol as “one of the most extensive and powerful criminal organizations in the world,” and “is considered the only Italian mafia organization present on every world continent.”
Its “strong family ties and corrupt political and business practices allow it to penetrate all areas of economic life,” Interpol added. The group is also believed to control the supply of large amounts of cocaine entering Europe from South America and beyond, according to the BBC.
“Driven by power and influence, the ‘Ndrangheta is involved in a wide range of criminal activities, from drug trafficking and money laundering to extortion and the rigging of public contracts,” Interpol said. “These enormous illegal profits are then reinvested into regular companies, further strengthening the organization’s hold and polluting the legal economy.”
Citing the “unique and urgent threat” posed by the “spread of mafia-type crime,” Interpol recently created a three-year initiative that unites law enforcement in several countries to “combat the ‘Ndrangheta.” Authorities said they have already made a number of major arrests since launching the project last year.
Interpol said Tuesday that two key members had been taken into custody as a result of the international effort: Biart and Francesco Pelle, whom the Italian Ministry of the Interior deemed one of the country’s most dangerous fugitives.
The Associated Press reports that Pelle, who was convicted in Italy of ordering the revenge killing of a mobster’s wife, was arrested Monday in Portugal at a clinic where he was reportedly being treated for COVID-19.
The ‘Ndrangheta is currently the subject of one of Italy’s biggest organized crime trials, in which 355 suspected mobsters and political officials face charges including murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering, according to the BBC. It took officials more than three hours to read the names of all the defendants at a pre-trial hearing, AFP news agency said.
The trial, which began in January, is expected to involve more than 900 witnesses and last more than two years.