In João Pessoa …
Tanning in plain sight
Rocco Morabito, Italy’s second-most-wanted fugitive, dropped off that list and saw his vacation cut short last week when he was arrested at his hotel in this Brazilian beach resort. The “King of Cocaine,” a member of the ’Ndrangheta Mafia, had been wanted by Italian authorities for drug trafficking for three decades, not including a period when he was—whoops!—briefly in custody. Back in 2017, the mobster, who clearly has an affinity for the seashore, was arrested in Punta del Este, Uruguay—where he had been living under a fake identity—“while carrying 13 mobile phones, after he had made the mistake of registering his daughter at a school under her real name,” according to The Times of London. While awaiting extradition, Morabito escaped through a hole in the prison roof.
In João Pessoa, until just the other day, the 54-year-old “enjoyed daily strolls on the sand and sunbathing and is said to have tipped staff handsomely,” according to the newspaper. “He often ordered room service at his hotel and was known by staff as a polite, easy-going guest who never wore gold but handed out generous tips.”
In case you’re wondering: Italy’s most wanted is Matteo Messina “Diabolik” Denaro, said to be a boss of bosses in the Sicilian Mafia, and has been at large since 1993. Have they taken a quick look around Rio?
Meanwhile, with one Sicilian mobster taken into custody, another has just been released into the wild. Giovanni Brusca had received a relatively mild 30-year sentence (mild because he’d turned on other mafiosi), and that was reduced by five years for good behavior—presumably while in prison, because his pre-incarceration behavior, which included 150 murders, certainly fell into the “needs improvement” category.
In Xiong’an New Area …
Does that include bad toasts from drunk maids of honor?
The urban district Xiong’an New Area—can we assume that name is just a placeholder?—has taken steps to curb gaudy weddings, following a recent viral video of a pole dance being performed at a reception. The state-run zone, some 60 miles outside Beijing and “hand-picked by Chinese president Xi Jinping to be an innovative, green and resident-friendly development,” announced “wedding reforms to clean up ‘unhealthy’ traditions such as extravagant weddings and ‘vulgar’ celebrations,” reported the South China Morning Post.
While the new rules were said to be welcomed by the public, over-the-top weddings are not a recent development in China. “The tradition is known as naohun, which literally means ‘making disturbances at weddings’, and dates back thousands of years,” noted the paper. “Wedding guests generally derive great pleasure from letting the bride and groom kiss or from making them and bridesmaids do embarrassing tasks, including being tied up, wearing outrageous clothing or being forced to perform in an indecent manner.”
In the skies over Tamil Nadu …
The new mile-high club?
In other wedding news: a young Indian couple and the airline whose jet they chartered to celebrate their nuptials are catching more than a little flak for having taken to the air with 160 not-uniformly-masked guests. This went on while, down below, their hometown of Madurai was recording 1,300 new cases of the coronavirus every day. “In one video of the ceremony, the groom, Rakesh, ties a sacred thread around the neck of the bride, Dakshina, while the Bangalore-bound plane flies over the revered Meenakshi Amman Temple in Tamil Nadu,” reported the South China Morning Post.
The couple, who had held their real wedding ceremony earlier, with just 50 guests and the necessary protocols, drew criticism for the sequel’s tone deafness. But as one virologist noted, recent election rallies organized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just as the second wave of the virus peaked, packed in substantially larger crowds than did the SpiceJet charter.
In London …
Her ship has sailed
Still more wedding news, of a sort: Farkhad Akhmedov will not have to cough up the super-yacht Luna to Tatiana Akhmedova. Akhmedova has accused Akhmedov of “continually dodging her efforts to enforce a £450 million [$640 million] divorce award,” said The Times of London. The $320 million, 377-foot, two-helipad (no tedious circling while you wait for clearance to land), with an anti-missile-system-equipped dinghy “is docked in Dubai, where local court orders have repeatedly frustrated [Akhmedova’s] attempts to take possession of it,” reported the newspaper. “Last month, the High Court in the Marshall Islands ruled that the businessman must hand over the yacht to his estranged wife. However, in a later ruling this month … the Supreme Court of the Pacific islands overturned the earlier decision.”
Akhmedov’s spokesman assured The Times that now the super-yacht “is off the table.” Don’t you hate it when that happens?
In Minsk …
When the autocratic six-term (and counting) president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, isn’t diverting flights in order to detain opposition journalists (Roman Protasevich, two weeks ago and still being held), he oversees a sadistic prison system based on torture, according to human-rights organizations. And you don’t have to be an opposition journalist to qualify as a guest. Olga Pavlova, a 32-year-old doctor, was locked up for three days in Minsk’s Okrestina prison and refused medical care for injuries she’d sustained from a stun grenade at a protest. “When she spoke out, a prison guard named Yevgeny smashed her head repeatedly against a wall. ‘You do not have any rights,’ he shouted,” reported The Times of London. “She was one of 36 women packed into a grimy four-berth cell with little ventilation, a hole in the floor for a lavatory, and a rusty tap. ‘I thought I would die,’ she said. ‘The beatings went on all night.’”
Last month, German lawyers filed a complaint on behalf of 10 Belarusian dissidents who said they had been tortured—Germany has jurisdiction to try crimes against humanity wherever they are committed. “Heirs of fascism,” President Lukashenko responded. “Who are they to judge me?”
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail