Dubai: Former Drug Trafficker Offers up Island in Hope of Reduced Sentence

A former drug trafficker turned mafia informant has handed over an artificial island he owns off the coast of Dubai to the Italian authorities in the hope of receiving a reduced sentence.

The announcement was made during the trial in Naples on Monday, which involved about 20 defendants, including Raffaele Imperiale, nicknamed “the Van Gogh boss”, a notorious international drug trafficker for the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.

Imperiale, who had been on the run for five years, was arrested in Dubai in August 2021 and extradited to Italy in March 2022.

According to investigators, Imperiale bought the island, named Taiwan, during his time in hiding. Its value is estimated at €60m-€80m (£52m-£61m) and is part of an artificial archipelago off the coast of the United Arab Emirates called “The World” and shaped as a map of the globe.

Imperiale, who faces a sentence of 14 years and 10 months in prison, is attempting to demonstrate his willingness to cooperate with the authorities in the hope of receiving a reduced sentence.

“It is clear that Imperiale wants sentence reductions,” said the prosecutor, Maurizio De Marco. “We are assessing the validity of his statements, but there seem to be no doubts about their genuineness.”

Imperiale began his criminal career in a coffee shop in Amsterdam selling cannabis and is believed to have been the leader of an alleged super drug cartel, along with the Netherlands’ former most wanted criminal, Ridouan Taghi, the Irish reputed gang boss Daniel Kinahan, and the Bosnian drug trafficker Edin Gačanin.

Daniel Kinahan, his father, Christopher, and brother Christopher Jr are still at large despite a $5m (£4m) bounty on their heads.

Italian authorities consider Imperiale’s group to be one of the world’s 50 largest drug cartels, with a virtual monopoly on Peruvian cocaine.

Imperiale, who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Dubai and spent €400,000 a month to maintain it, earned the nickname “the Van Gogh boss” because he possessed two stolen, precious paintings by the Dutch artist.

To demonstrate his willingness to become a mafia informant, Imperiale returned the paintings to the judicial authorities. His information led to the recovery and return of the paintings, Beach at Scheveningen in Stormy Weather (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884), to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The paintings had been stolen on 7 December 2002, and remained missing for more than 13 years until they were discovered by the Italian Guardian di Finanza near Naples in January 2016. They were eventually returned to the Van Gogh Museum and went back on display in March 2017.


The Guardian

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