February 10, 2023
JAKARTA – Italian mafia-linked fugitive Antonio Strangio, who has been on the run from international police since 2016 for drug trafficking and production, was arrested last week in Bali, the local police have announced.
The 32-year-old was detained at Ngurah Rai International Airport late on Feb. 2, just as he was about to return to Australia, where he has citizenship and from which he could not have been extradited. He had flown in from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“He was transiting in Bali, and we made the arrest about two hours before his flight was set to depart to Australia,” police investigator Adj. Chief Commr. Ni Luh Kompiang Srinadi told journalists in Denpasar on Wednesday.
Strangio, who is linked to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta organized crime group from Italy, was nabbed by immigration officers when his arrival was flagged by the immigration system, Kompiang said.
“He is on Interpol’s red notice because he illegally traded 160 kilograms of marijuana,” she added.
Strangio’s detention was only made public on Wednesday but occurred the same day that convicted killer Edgardo Greco was arrested in France, AFP reported.
Greco, 63, is another suspected member of the ‘Ndrangheta and had been on the run since 2006.
The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most powerful organized crime group. It operates worldwide and has strong ties to the Europe-bound cocaine trade from South America.
Italian police hailed the global effort after making a separate announcement on Strangio and Greco’s arrest.
“The ‘Ndrangheta has nowhere to hide, neither in Italy nor abroad,” said Vittorio Rizzi, central director of Italy’s criminal police, in a statement on Wednesday.
The police operation was conducted under the auspices of Interpol’s Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN) project, which involves 13 countries.
To date, 43 fugitives have been arrested through I-CAN, which was established in 2020 and is due to come to an end later this year, Rizzi said.
He said that three years ago the ‘Ndrangheta crime group was “substantially unknown by police forces all over the world, perceived almost as a folklore phenomenon”.
But the Italian police had worked constantly to persuade those forces that, in fact, it was “a powerful criminal organization which silently infiltrates and chokes the economy”.
Hailing the latest arrest, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said international cooperation was “indispensable for combating crime that operates globally”.
Indonesia is an Interpol member country and is involved in a number of regional and global security initiatives.
Strangio’s arrest was possible because his arrival was detected by the Indonesian immigration monitoring system, said Antonius Parlindungan, a senior official at the Ngurah Rai International Airport’s immigration office.
“He arrived at the airport alone on flight OD-171 from Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar on Thursday at 8 p.m. He was identified in our system as the subject of an Interpol red notice,” Antonius said.
The Bali immigration office detained the fugitive and handed him over to the Bali Police for verification. His identity was matched with the profile on Interpol’s red notice list, although Strangio continued to maintain his innocence, police investigator Kompiang said.
The Bali Police would continue with his handover to Interpol, she said.
“The case will proceed in Italy. We are not the focus of this case,” she noted.
Bali has seen its fair share of international criminal activity.
In November of last year, two other fugitives with Interpol red notices were arrested in Bali. The two men, a 39-year-old Czech national identified only by his initials SD and Slovakian CS, 48, were arrested by local authorities.
Both men were accused of fraud and tax evasion in their home countries.
A number of other Interpol fugitives have been arrested on the island, particularly before the COVID-19 pandemic. (tjs)