Italian Mob Boss Nabbed in Rural Bunker After 16-Year Hunt

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Italian police officers lead Mafia boss Michele Zagaria from a police station in the southern city of Caserta.

In a raid of the Southern Italian town of Casapesenna on Wednesday at dawn, Italian police swooped upon the secret hideout of feared crime boss Michele Zagaria after a 16-year manhunt, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The 53-year-old, who is the head of a powerful group in the Camorra crime syndicate, was found hiding in an underground bunker after officers searched the houses of his suspected supporters. Zagaria fronts the notoriously violent Casalesi clan and gained infamy when the gang was profiled in Robert Saviano’s 2006 best-seller, Gomorrah.

Known to have interests in drug dealing, construction and waste disposal, Italian investigators estimated the Casalesis to be worth €20 billion ($26.8 billion) in 2008 and claimed the clan became so powerful that its bosses would hold meetings in police stations.

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Zagaria had been on the run from police since 1995, when he was implicated in a string of violent murders from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Happily for Italy’s already troubled taxpayers, the mobster won’t require a lengthy trial. In 2008 he was convicted in absentia for the murders and handed a life sentence. And the arrest will provide a welcome boost to new Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is keen to clean things up after his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, left office.

“It’s a beautiful day for [the region] and for all honest people,” Monti said, adding that the arrest “represents a stimulus and encouragement to people in the territory and in our country who are ready to fight organized crime.” The authorities’ attention will now turn to the aftermath of the arrest.

Previous arrests of major bosses have led to bloodshed as lieutenants scramble to fill the power vacuum and rival gangs try to gain territory. And while NewsFeed is no expert on the inner workings of Italian crime syndicates, we’re fairly sure Zagaria’s replacement won’t be decided by a mafia version of The Apprentice.

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Jak Phillips is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @JakPhillips. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.