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6 Jan, 2022 13:18

Mafia boss caught after 20 years following Google Maps blunder

Italian police have credited the app with capturing a photo of a crime group leader who’d been in hiding since 2002
Mafia boss caught after 20 years following Google Maps blunder

Anti-Mafia authorities in Italy have credited a Google Street View picture for revealing the location of a member of Sicily’s Stidda Mafia group who escaped a Rome prison in 2002 partway through a life sentence for murder.

Gioacchino Gammino was convicted of murder and other Mafia-related crimes in 1998, and had been on Italy’s list of most wanted criminals. He escaped prison three years later, during the making of a film. He was detained in the town of Galapagar, near the Spanish capital of Madrid, where he had been living, working as a chef, and running a greengrocers’ shop, having assumed the name Manuel.

Police in Sicily had been searching for the 61-year-old for several years, and a European arrest warrant had been issued in 2014. However, it was a Google Street View image that ultimately allowed authorities to discover his specific location.

The tech company’s navigation tool caught an image of two men chatting outside El Huerto de Manu – Manu’s Garden, the shop ‘Manuel’ owned – and officers noted that one of the individuals looked a lot like Gammino. The Mafia boss was further identified by the scar on the left side of his chin that was evident in a photo on a local restaurant’s Facebook page.

Although Gammino was detained on December 17, his arrest was not made public until it was reported by Italy’s La Repubblica daily on Wednesday.

“There were many previous and long investigations which led us to Spain. We were on a good path, with Google Maps helping to confirm our investigations,” Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told the Italian media.

According to local reports, following his arrest, the gangster – who apparently thought he’d successfully cut all ties with his past – asked the authorities, “How did you find me? I haven’t even called my family for 10 years!”

Gammino is currently in Spanish custody, with Italian police hoping to extradite him to face his sentence by the end of February.