Grillo sisters' father held over 'cocaine and hash' deals

Jan 9, 2014

Michele Grillo, 66, spent 15 years in jail for kidnapping and is allegedly Calabrian mafia member

THE father of Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo – the Italian personal assistants acquitted of defrauding Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi - has been arrested for conspiring to sell cocaine and hashish as a member of the Calabrian mafia.

Michele Grillo, 66, was taken into custody by Italian police yesterday following a long investigation into the criminal activities of the Barbaro-Papalia mafia clan, says Reuters. Judicial sources have confirmed that he is the father of Elisabetta and Francesca, but there is no suggestion that his daughters have any link to the case.

Grillo is accused of conspiracy to sell "large" amounts of cocaine and hash and using threats of violence to extort 85,000 euros from the owner of a petrol station, according to court documents. It is also claimed that he helped suppress evidence needed in criminal trials involving men allegedly tied to the mafia.

Grillo, a truck driver by trade, had been under surveillance since 2011, Reuters says. He is considered by police to be the right-hand man of Agostino Catanzariti, also arrested yesterday, who police consider to be a high-ranking mafia commander.

In 1981, Michele Grillo was convicted of kidnapping Tulia Kauten, the sister of a well-known Italian fashion designer. He spent 15 years in jail for the crime.

Reuters says the Calabrian mafia, known as the 'Ndrangheta', has in recent years eclipsed the power of its better-known cousin, the Sicilian mafia or Cosa Nostra. The Calabrian clan's ascendancy has been largely due to its key role in importing cocaine from South America to Europe.

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