Masked officers were also heckled by more than 100 people as Giovanni Tegano, of the feared 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, was led from their headquarters in Reggio Calabria.
‘Giovanni is a man of peace!’ one woman shouted as the white-haired, bespectacled 70-year-old smiled and waved back.
His gang, now the most powerful mafia-style organisation of Italy, has a tight grip on society in its base in the poor southern region of Calabria.
Reggio Calabria police chief Carmelo Casabona said he was saddened to see the warm welcome awarded to Tegano, one of Italy's top 30 most-wanted fugitives.
But he said the arrest ‘closes a dark chapter’ in the history of the city, the capital of the Calabria region, and added: ‘We'll work harder to win the hearts of people.’
The former fugitive, who was arrested last night at a house in the surrounding hills, was convicted to life in jail for orchestrating mid-1980s turf war that left scores dead.
Five men, who are accused of helping him during his years as a fugitive, were also arrested at the villa close the poor neighborhood that had long been the centre of crimes.
Tegano, who is said to have remained active despite his old age, did not resist arrest despite allegedly having a loaded gun with him.
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