Brit hooded and arrested by armed police after being mistaken for mafia boss

14 September 2021, 18:07

Sicilian crime boss Matteo Messina Denaro has been in hiding since 1993
Sicilian crime boss Matteo Messina Denaro has been in hiding since 1993. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A Formula One fan from Liverpool was arrested as he dined with his son in the Netherlands after being mistaken for a Mafia crime boss.

The 54-year-old man, identified only as Mark L, was hooded, handcuffed and bundled away by armed police at a restaurant in The Hague last Wednesday, his lawyer said. 

He was then taken to a maximum security jail.

It came after Italy asked Dutch authorities to execute an international arrest warrant for Sicilian crime boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been in hiding since 1993.

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Denaro, nicknamed "Diabolik", is wanted for 50 murders and is the "capo di tutti capi" - the boss of all bosses - of the Sicilian Mafia.

The arrested man was a British Formula One fan with a strong Liverpudlian accent, staying in the Netherlands after watching the Dutch Grand Prix.

He was eventually "sprung" by his Dutch lawyer, Leon van Kleef, from a maximum security jail in Vught.

Mr van Kleef said: "Sometimes in the practise of law things that might go quick take ages. The press release has helped but it took three days.

"I went to the press in the hope of speeding things up because normally it's a matter of time.

"You can imagine. He had anger and disbelief and laughter. Because it is ludicrous.

"He is a normal Formula One fan.

"I was always convinced he was not it. It would have been a genius of an Italian to have such a strong Liverpool accent."

Mr van Kleef said the British man did not wish to be identified and would not comment further on the case.