The Italian Almanac

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Winnie the Pooh

Winnie Goes to Jail

A mobile phone registered to Winnie the Pooh helped police track down a fugitive Italian mobster in Brussels. Coded telephone calls between Vittorio Pirozzi and his wife eventually led Italian police and Interpol to the Belgian capital, where the 58-year-old fugitive was arrested. Pirozzi, a member of the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, had been on the run since 2003 and was on Italy's 100 most wanted list.

Throughout his time in hiding, the boss remained in close contact with his wife, arranging meetings using a complicated code of numbers and letters, according to Naples flying squad chief Vittorio Pisani. An exercise book since discovered at the wife's home contained the complex code the pair had developed, he added. But while Pirozzi changed the SIM card in his cell phone every two weeks, his wife always used a card registered to the name of A. A. Milne's fictional bear, Winnie the Pooh.

The unusual alias, which received calls on a fixed day at the same time each week, eventually tipped off investigators, who followed the wife to Brussels earlier this week. Pirozzi himself was finally spotted late Wednesday afternoon, leaving the modest apartment in central Brussels where he was living, on a shopping trip with his wife. A large-scale operation, including a police helicopter, was mounted shortly after the pair's return to the apartment but Pisani said the mobster was not armed and did not resist arrest.