- Mafia boss Maria Licciardi has been arrested in Rome while trying to board a flight.
- The 70-year-old had been on the run since 2019.
- The powerful clan leader is said to have overseen extortion and drug smuggling in Naples for decades.
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A reputed mafia boss known as the “godmother” and “the little one” for her petite stature has been arrested at Rome airport while trying to board a flight to Malaga, Spain.
Prosecutors allege that Maria Licciardi, 70, headed up the Licciardi clan of the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples, one of the oldest criminal organizations in Italy.
Although Licciardi said she was traveling to visit her daughter in Malaga, investigators believe it was a planned escape or a business trip, as her criminal organization might be seeking to expand their business to Spain, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
She was also allegedly carrying 6,000 euros in cash at the time of her arrest.
The Italian news agency ANSA said that Licciardi “didn’t bat an eyelash” when the officers arrested her.
The mafia boss has been on the run since she evaded a police sweep in June 2019 and has been considered a “fugitive” by Italian authorities.
Police sources previously told The Telegraph that Licciardi is a born leader of exceptional intelligence and is soft-spoken but merciless to those who cross her.
Licciardi will appear in court this week and will face charges of mafia association, extortion, and receiving money from illicit sources, according to The Telegraph.
Licciardi allegedly became leader of the Licciardi clan in the 1990s after her brother Gennaro Licciardi died in prison and a nephew who had been in line for leadership was murdered.
The Licciardi clan transformed the Naples suburb of Secondigliano into “an immense supermarket for drugs,” Roberto Saviano, an investigative journalist who wrote a book about the Camorra, told The Telegraph.
Maria Licciardi also formed a loose coalition between different Camorra clans to expand their control of the city in southern Italy.
Along with drug smuggling, Licciardi is alleged to have added prostitution to the Camorra’s business empire, even though it went against the organization’s code, according to The Daily Mail.
A feud with another family over a heroin shipment led to at least 53 gang-related killings and the coalition falling apart, according to The Telegraph.
In 2001 Licciardi was arrested and convicted of mafia-related crimes and served eight years for her crimes before being released in 2009.
She then allegedly became the head of a different Camorra clan known as the Secondigliano Alliance, where she came to be known as “Aunty Maria.”
Licciardi inspired the character Scianel in the acclaimed Italian TV series Gomorrah, about the Camorra mafia.
The Italian interior minister congratulated the police on Licciardi’s arrest and said that it was “a strong sign of the presence of the state,” as reported by The Telegraph.