An Italian drug trafficker was arrested in Dubai for being linked to the stolen Van Gogh paintings.
The suspect is one of Italy’s most wanted men and most dangerous fugitives. He is an alleged major cocaine trafficker who investigators say bought two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the black market with drug money.
The UAE holds Raffaele Imperiale, 46, while Italy’s justice ministry completes extradition procedures.
Italian authorities had been seeking him since January 2016 for alleged money laundering and international drug trafficking.
He was able to construct an imposing network of international drug trafficking, in particular in cocaine,” the police said.
According to Italian investigators, Imperiale started as an “international broker” in the drug trade in the early 2000s, with his ties to powerful Camorra clans surviving various feuds among Naples mobsters.
Imperiale is “a top exponent of international drug trafficking and money laundering. He accumulated huge amounts of illicit wealth thanks above all to cocaine sales,” said Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.
Italy’s justice ministry was preparing extradition proceedings, police said.
Wanted Since 2016
In 2016, Italian police found two Van Gogh paintings stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum inside a home outside Naples belonging to Imperiale.
The stolen paintings are “View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen”.
Police said a close cohort of Imperiale, Vincenzo Aprea – a well-known Camorra boss now in prison – had been able to buy the paintings on the black market using drug money.
Imperiale lived for around 10 years in Amsterdam while allegedly leading drug shipments to Italy. He then moved to Madrid and eventually Dubai.
Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported that he took over one of the coffeeshops selling marijuana in Amsterdam in 1996.