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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Explained: How YouTube cooking videos led to the capture of an Italian gangster; significance of the arrest

The 53-year-old fugitive is believed to be a member of the dreaded ‘Ndrangheta mafia organisation, and was brought to Milan on Monday, the police said in a statement.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 1, 2021 7:24:33 am
The 53-year-old fugitive was brought to Milan on Monday, the police said.

Marc Feren Claude Biart, an Italian mafia gangster who had been evading the police since 2014, was arrested last week in the Dominican Republic, after Italian police were able to recognise his tattoos in cooking videos on YouTube.

The 53-year-old fugitive is believed to be a member of the dreaded ‘Ndrangheta mafia organisation, and was brought to Milan on Monday, the police said in a statement.

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In January this year, Italy started its largest mafia trial in 30 years, targeting the ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s most powerful organised crime syndicate based in the southern region of Calabria.

How the police caught Biart with the help of YouTube videos

According to the BBC, Biart was accused of trafficking cocaine for the Cacciola clan of the ‘Ndrangheta between Italy and the Netherlands, and had been in hiding for more than six years.

During this time, Biart led a quiet life with his family in Boca Chica, a white sand beach town in the Caribbean nation. Recently, he began posting videos of himself cooking Italian recipes with his wife on YouTube. While he made it a point to hide his face, investigators said they were able to recognise Biart from his tattoos, CNN reported.

“The love for Italian cuisine allowed (police forces) to follow his traces on the web and social networks, while the love for tattoos (allowed police) to recognise the fugitive as that cook,” the Italian police’s statement read.

Biart was extradited and flown down to Milan earlier this week, soon after his arrest. During his seven years in hiding, he had lived in Costa Rica before moving to the Dominican Republic around five years ago, police said.

“This is an operational success that demonstrates once again that the ‘Ndrangheta is not a Calabrian pandemic nor an Italian one but that it represents a serious threat at an international level,” the statement, obtained by CNN, further read.

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The ‘Ndrangheta

Italian authorities believe that the ‘Ndrangheta are responsible for controlling the supply of massive amounts of cocaine that enters Europe from South America and other regions.

As per a 2013 study by Demoskopika Research Institute, the ‘Ndrangheta was estimated to be richer than Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s put together, with an annual turnover of €53 billion. Using shell companies, the mafia group has the capacity to launder millions earned through the drug trade, and has used the money to buy hotels, restaurants, car dealerships and other businesses across Italy, especially in Rome and the affluent northern regions. The group’s reach is known to extend into several continents.

The syndicate, which is known to rely on blood ties, is deeply embedded in the Calabria region, where clan members reside in remote villages despite being involved in multimillion dollar transactions around the world. As per investigators, the bosses build tunnels under their homes and sophisticated bunkers to escape to when they are on the run.

The 2021 trial

Earlier this year, Italy opened the largest mafia trial in the country since the early 1990s to specifically target only one group, the Mancuso family, which currently dominates the ‘Ndrangheta.

Among those charged, the one with the highest profile is 66-year-old clan leader Luigi Mancuso, who is also called “The Uncle”. Other nicknames among the defendants are “Fatty”, “Blondie” and “The Wolf”, the BBC reported. As per an AFP report, at a pre-trial hearing, it took over three hours to read the names of all the defendants.

Apart from drug trafficking offences, the charges against the ‘Ndrangheta include murder, attempted murder, extortion, belonging to a mafia syndicate, loan sharking, disclosure of official secrets and abuse of office. At the trial, prosecutors are hoping to prove a nexus between the mafia and politicians, police officers and civil servants, both in Calabria and the rest of Italy.

With the trial, experts say, Italy will have the opportunity to expose the secrets of the mafia group, which has silently grown over the years to become the most powerful crime organisation in Italy and among the richest in the world.

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