Rome: Here's another of the Mafia's trademark offers-you-can't-refuse: pay or be eaten by a crocodile.
Italy's anti-Mafia police unit said Wednesday it has seized a crocodile used by an alleged Naples mob boss to intimidate local businessmen from whom he demanded protection money.
Officers searching for weapons in the man's home outside the southern Italian city last week found the crocodile living on his terrace, said police official Sergio Di Mauro.
The crocodile, weighing 40 kilograms (88 pounds) and 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) long, was fed a diet of live rabbits and mice, Di Mauro said.
He said the suspect, an alleged boss in the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, used to invite extortion victims to his home and threaten to set the animal on them if they didn't pay or grant him favors.
The man was not arrested but placed under investigation for illegal possession of an animal, Di Mauro said. Investigators are also working on extortion charges against him.
Di Mauro said the animal is believed to be a caiman, a species that lives in Central and South America, and it is not yet clear how it got to Italy. The crocodile was placed in the care of Italy's forestry service.
First Published: Thursday, September 24, 2009, 08:45