Italian alleged mobster linked to Van Goghs is held in Dubai

ROME – A person of Italy’s most wished adult males, an alleged significant cocaine trafficker who investigators say purchased two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the black marketplace with drug money, has been arrested in Dubai, Naples-primarily based police mentioned Thursday.

Raffaele Imperiale, an alleged kingpin in the Naples-centered Camorra arranged criminal offense syndicate, was arrested on Aug. 4, Italy’s state police and economic crimes law enforcement corps reported in a joint assertion.

Imperiale, 46, was currently being held in the United Arab Emirates when Italy’s justice ministry completes extradition techniques.

Italian authorities had been seeking him due to the fact January 2016 for alleged cash laundering and global drug trafficking as element of structured criminal offense exercise, according to the Italian Interior Ministry. He was viewed as a person of Italy’s most perilous fugitives.

“He was equipped to construct an imposing community of intercontinental drug trafficking, in unique in cocaine,” the police explained. In accordance to Italian investigators, Imperiale begun as an ”international broker” in the drug trade in the early 2000s, with his ties to impressive Camorra clans surviving numerous feuds amongst Naples mobsters.


Imperiale is “a leading exponent of global drug trafficking and revenue laundering, who gathered big amounts of illicit wealth thanks over all to cocaine revenue,” reported Inside Minister Luciana Lamorgese.

In 2016, two Van Gogh paintings stolen in 2002 from an Amsterdam museum were discovered stashed in a non-descript farmhouse on residence owned by Imperiale in the Naples-area city of his birth, Castellamare di Stabia.

“The wealth illicitly accrued authorized him to invest in on the black industry two Van Gogh paintings of unquantifiable value,” police explained. They referred to the 1882 “View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and a 1884-1885 operate, “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” which had been stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Italian money law enforcement located the paintings wrapped in cotton sheets, stuffed into a box and hidden powering a wall in a rest room. The artworks had been found out as portion of a seizure of house from Imperiale and one more reputed Camorra drug kingpin.


Police mentioned that Imperiale gave an job interview this yr to Naples everyday newspaper Il Mattino in which he denied any backlink to the museum theft and claimed he bought the paintings due to the fact he is a passionate lover of artwork.

“I acquired them right from the thief, simply because the value was appealing,. But most of all due to the fact I like art,” Imperiale was quoted as telling the newspaper. He manufactured no top secret of owning lived in Dubai for several several years.

Investing in art, real estate and respectable companies like accommodations, dining places and pharmacies is ever more prevalent amid Italian mobsters awash in drug trafficking proceeds, according to Italian investigators.

Soon prior to the Van Gogh paintings had been found out, Italy’s money police seized some 40 houses in Spain that they alleged Imperiale experienced gotten with illicitly acquired income.

Italian anti-Mafia investigators have pursuing Imperiale’s actions for several years. The arrest of a shut Imperiale affiliate who supervised the importation of cocaine from Venezuela led to the 2013 seizure of 1,330 kilos (about 1.5 tons) of the drug in Paris, in accordance to Italian law enforcement.


Italian news reviews claimed Imperiale lived for about 10 yrs in Amsterdam even though allegedly directing drug shipments to Italy and then moved to Madrid and ultimately Dubai.

Dutch day by day newspapers De Telegraaf claimed that he took over a single of Amsterdam’s cannabis-offering coffeeshops in 1996.


Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed to this report.

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