He was a fugitive since 1993 and included in the list of most wanted fugitives in Italy until his capture in March 1999. While in the strict Article 41-bis prison regime he nevertheless keeps on conducting his business and directing the clan outside.
Controlling the Gioia Tauro port
The Piromalli 'ndrina managed to condition the management of the new container terminal in the port of Gioia Tauro. Established in the mid-1990s, it became the largest terminal in the Mediterranean, moving over 2 million containers in 1998. Since 1994, when Contship Italia rented the port area to start transhipment activity and the Medcenter Container Terminal was set up thanks to 138 billion lire (about US$86 million) in state financing, the Piromalli’s aimed to oblige the Medcenter company, through its vice president Walter Lugli, and the Contship company, through its president Enrico Ravano, to pay a kickback of US$1.50 for each transhipped container, a sum which corresponded to about half the net profits earned by the two companies.
Additionally, the Piromalli’s desired contracts, subcontracts, and jobs in the two firms that run the port, as well as from other companies in the surrounding area. Despite subscribing to an anti corruption pact with the government, the managers of both Contship and Medcenter gave in to the demands. The arrest warrant issued in January 1999 against members of the Piromalli group stated that the two companies contracted firms indicated by the defendants (and in some cases belonging to the latter) in the port-servicing activities and hired people recommended by the Piromalli clan, reinforcing the latter’s power in the Gioia Tauro plain.”
Other criminal activities
Together with their cousins of the Molè family the Piromalli clan are involved in cigarette smuggling and trafficking cocaine using their contacts in the port of Gioia Tauro. The shipments were sent to Sicily, Lazio and Lombardy.
Piromalli is also accused of trying to wring £100,000 a year from Silvio Berlusconi's television network, in return for not blowing up its relay stations in Calabria.
He was arrested at dawn on March 11, 1999, in a secret hideout concealed in a derelict hut that turned out to be fortified complex packed with hidden rooms, protected by electronic metal shutters and a remote operated secret escape route. He was unarmed and did not oppose arrest. In his bedroom there was an altar dedicated to the Madonna of Polsi, in the municipality of San Luca, where the chiefs of the 'Ndrangheta locali meet regularly during the September Feast. He was incarcerated under the strict article 41-bis prison regime. He nevertheless keeps on conducting his business and direct the clan outside.
The Piromalli clan tried to relax the strict regime for their boss. One of the plots was to deliver votes to Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà, PdL) coalition during the election campaign in 2008 in return for a relaxation of Piromalli’s prison stature. Aldo Micciché, a businessman who moved to Venezuela after being convicted of fraudulent bankruptcy in Italy, planned to fill in 50,000 blank ballot slips for Italian voters in Latin America obtained from corrupt officials. Micciché asked two leading members of the Piromalli clan to visit Marcello Dell'Utri – Berlusconi's right-hand man – at his Milan office. Dell'Utri was taped after the meeting complimenting Micciché for introducing him to two 'good picciotti,' a Sicilian expression used to describe low-level mafiosi