The head of an Albanian-Italian organised crime group sought by international police forces for the past 17 years has been arrested in Brussels.
Ilir Meto, aged 56, known as Il Dottore or ‘the doctor’ in criminal circles, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in his absence in 2004, and has been on the run ever since. In 2012 he was sentenced, again in absentia, to a further 15 years, in both cases for drugs trafficking.
According to the Italian press, he was arrested in Saint-Josse, where he lived with his wife and children, at the beginning of March.
According to Italian sources, he was tracked down by the anti-mafia squad of the Italian city of Lecce. The Brussels police who carried out the arrest, meanwhile, declined to confirm that information.
The Belgian FAST (Fugitive Active Search Team) division of the federal police was responsible for the arrest on the ground.
It is not clear if Meto was here during the entire duration of his flight from justice, or indeed how he managed to live here. It is presumed he was living under a false name, but investigators are in no hurry to explain more.
Meto appears to have no connection to organised crime in Belgium. His arrest was made in relation to two international warrants, from the 2004 and the 2012 convictions.
His name has also been connected to arms trafficking, and the Italian-Albanian gang he led had connections to another Italian-Moroccan organised crime group.
This week he was delivered to the Italian authorities. He now faces 29 years in prison.