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Suspected Italian Mafia Boss Nabbed in Argentina While Trying to Enter Brazil

Pantaleone Mancuso is allegedly linked to the powerful and violent 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

by Gaston Cavanagh
Sep 17 2014, 9:15pm

Photo via Gendarmería Nacional de Argentina

An alleged Italian mobster wanted on attempted murder charges has been arrested in Argentina, authorities told VICE News.

The arrest of Pantaleone Mancuso, a reputed boss of one of the most dangerous families of the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Calabria, Italy, is a reminder that Italian mafia groups are active in Argentina, a chief exporter of cocaine to Europe.

Mancuso was detained while trying to exit Argentina on the Tancredo Neves international bridge in the city of Puerto Iguazú, across from Brazil in the triple-border region that includes neighboring Paraguay. The area is frequently used by drug smugglers.

Sources inside the Gendarmerie, the militarized Argentine police agency that patrols the country's borders, told VICE News that Mancuso was traveling with a false Argentine identification using the alias Lucca de Bartolo.

The Italian told suspicious Argentine officials that he was merely a tourist trying to visit the Brazilian city of Foz de Iguazú, across the international bridge. In photos obtained by VICE News, the alleged Italian mobster is seen handcuffed and being led away by two Argentine officials.

Pantaleone Mancuso, aka "The Engineer." (Photo via Gendarmería Nacional de Argentina)

Authorities said they were uncertain how long Mancuso had been inside Argentina, but signaled they had been searching for him for at least a year. National news outlets first began reporting Mancuso's arrest September 11, although authorities told VICE News that the Italian fugitive was stopped and held August 29.

Rosario, Argentina: Violence, Drugs, and Football. Watch the full-length documentary here.

"The Engineer," as Mancuso is known, is 53 years old and wanted in Italy for the attempted double homicide of two other mafiosos.

Argentine authorities alerted the international police agency Interpol about Mancuso's arrest. He was transferred to a maximum-security prison in Buenos Aires, where he will be kept until he can be extradited to Italy, officials said. Mancuso did not have an international arrest warrant when he was stopped in Puerto Iguazú. After communicating with Italian authorities, however, Interpol launched a "red alert" in order to formalize Italy's eventual request for extradition.

"Transnational organized crime adapts its methods to evade governments," Sergio Berni, Argentina's federal security secretary, told VICE News. "The only way to defy the threats on stability that are imposed by the mafia is with international cooperation, training, and professionalizing the state agents who are charged with catching them."

The 'Ndrangheta — considered one of the most dangerous mafias in Italy — have reportedly been operating in Argentina since at least 2007. The group is also active in Germany and Switzerland.

Los Monos: The drug gang of Rosario, Argentina's most violent city. Read more here.

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