An Italian drug trafficker, one of Europe's most-wanted criminals, has been arrested in Syria and extradited to Italy, according to Italian officials and a Syrian jihadist rebel group.
The last major drug trafficker from the Naples region still on the run, Bruno Carbone was detained when he got off the plane on Tuesday at Rome's Ciampino airport, the Neapolitan police said in a statement.
Carbone, 45, sentenced in absentia in Italy to 20 years in prison for international drug trafficking along the Spain-Naples-Sicily route, had been on the run since 2003.
Carbone is known as a close associate of Camorra's Raffaele Imperiale. Imperiale — himself considered to have been one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world — was arrested in Dubai in 2021.
It was initially unclear where Carbone was caught, with domestic outlets in Italy reporting he was apprehended in the United Arab Emirates as well, where he had spent much of his time on the run.
Mohammed Sankari, an official of the jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in northwestern Syria, stated that Carbone was detained in March "while passing through the 'liberated' areas (of the country) ... with the aim of reaching the regions under the control of (Bashar al-Assad's) regime".
Carbone was extradited after several months of interrogation, according to HTS, which also released his mugshot.
Carbone's claims he was a Mexican national evading the authorities back home for selling fake luxury watches raised suspicion about his real identity, Muhammad Abdel Rahman, the minister of interior of the territories controlled by the rebel Salvation Government of Syria, told Asharq Al-Awsat, a UK-based Arabic language outlet.
Emirati officials are believed to have mediated the extradition on Wednesday, Italian outlet Il Foglio reported.
'Catch me if you can', Italian-style
In December 2020, Carbone was said to have been arrested in Dubai following announcements by the domestic authorities.
The arrested man turned out to be a businessman from Naples and was released after spending a little over a month in prison.
HTS maintains that the person arrested at the time was an "individual (who) had been sent to Bruno's place as bait so that he could still evade the authorities."
Carbone was in league with Colombian traffickers, supplying cocaine for the clans of the Camorra -- one of the oldest and largest criminal organisations in Italy situated in the general Naples area.
He is also believed to have used the same connections to provide cocaine for another prominent organised crime syndicate, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.
Tahrir al-Sham was created in 2017 after the merger of several Islamist and jihadist groups, including the Al-Nusra Front.
Although it publicly split from al-Qaeda, the organisation is believed to share similar beliefs with the likes of the so-called Islamic State.
It has seen its strength and influence grow in the northwest of Syria following the capture of the key city of Idlib in mid-October.