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An Italian drug gang needed money, so it devised a bizarre plot, Italian police said — it would dig up the body of legendary automaker Enzo Ferrari and hold it for ransom.
In a massive raid involving hundreds of officers, 34 people were arrested Tuesday in Sardinia and northern Italy just as the gang was about to launch its scheme, 1½ years in the making, at the tomb shared by Ferrari and his father in Modena, in central Italy, police said at a news conference.
Ferrari died at age 90 in in 1988 and was buried alongside his father inside the ornate tomb at San Cataldo cemetery, complete with a model Ferrari perched on top. Modena is where Ferrari founded the luxury car company in 1939 as Auto Avio Costruzioni.
At least 11 other people are under further investigation after officers also seized an unspecified but large amount of cocaine and arms, police said.
Col. Saverio Ceglie, head of the carabinieri, or military police, in the province of Nuoro, said the gang is part of Anonima Sequestri, known as the kidnapping specialists of organized crime operations on the Italian island of Sardinia.
It is associated with the post-World War II bandit operation run by Graziano Mesina, a legendary figure known as the "Scarlet Pimpernel of Italy," who has been the subject of many scholarly books and at least two popular biopics. Mesina, who turns 76 next week, has been in prison for kidnapping plots since December.
Police said they got wind of the gang during their latest investigation of Mesina, which began almost a decade ago, and were staking out Ferrari's tomb when the bandits arrived.
"The gang had prepared everything in detail," Ceglie said. They made several visits to the tomb over more than a year of planning, and individual members were identified as being in charge of drawing up the plans, stealing the body itself and delivering the ransom demand to the Ferrari family, he said.
Ceglie said the Ferraris were kept in the loop about the plot, which he said had been "in the works for years but never succeeded because of our extensive efforts."