MARCO DI LAURO, otherwise known as “F4” or Il Fantasma (“The Ghost”), was sitting eating pasta when police broke into the cramped apartment he shared with his partner. Around 150 operatives from all three Italian national police forces had been assigned to the raid on March 2nd—a measure of the importance given to ensuring The Ghost did not vanish yet again.
Mr Di Lauro had been in hiding for 15 years. That made him one of Italy’s four most-wanted mobsters and the longest-standing fugitive of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. His elusiveness was an affront to the state, made all the more humiliating by the celebrity status he and his family had acquired.
The boyish-looking Mr Di Lauro was the fourth son (figlio in Italian, hence “F4”) of Paolo Di Lauro, whose family’s bloody history inspired “Gomorrah”, an internationally successful television series. The Di Lauro clan supplied the narcotics that turned its territory, centred on a vast housing project in the suburb of Scampia, into perhaps the biggest drugs outlet in Europe. At its height, turnover was estimated at €300m ($339m) a month. Such riches prompted a split in the clan and the first of two mafia feuds, in which scores of people have since died—some unconnected with either warring faction. According to a hit man who turned state’s evidence in 2017, the head of one of the victims was cut off to be used as a football by the boss who had ordered his killing.
Legends enveloped the missing Mr Di Lauro. Some fancied they had seen him disguised as a woman; others said he was in Dubai. Yet he turned out to be living just outside his family’s turf, near an underground station on a line that ends at Scampia. Such brazenness suggests that, although the Di Lauro clan has lost its grip on the city’s drugs trade (switching to counterfeiting and more legitimate activities), it wields considerable powers of intimidation.
The Ghost’s arrest did not result from a tip-off by neighbours. It appeared to have been linked to a completely different crime several hours earlier. A man believed to have been helping Mr Di Lauro to hide shot dead his own wife, then turned himself in. That coincided with what the police chief of Naples, Antonio De Iesu, called a “flurry of technical activity”. Perhaps the killer was under surveillance, and made a call or sent a message that unwittingly disclosed Mr Di Lauro’s whereabouts.
The fugitive was unarmed when captured. General Ubaldo del Monaco of the Carabinieri, a semi-military police force, said he seemed most concerned about his two cats. Mr Di Lauro’s partner was also led away. A neighbour said that on the way out she apologised for having used a false name in her dealings with the other people in the block.