A Formula 1 fan from Liverpool was arrested at gunpoint in the Netherlands after being mistaken for a mafia boss.
Police believed the 54-year-old, known as Mark L, was Sicilian crime lord Matteo Messina Denaro and he was blindfolded and led away by officers in The Hague on Wednesday.
Prosecutors said the man, who was in the country to watch the Dutch Grand Prix on 5 September, was later freed. Denaro, 59, is wanted over bombings in 1993 which killed 10 and injured 93.
Mark L had been eating at a restaurant with his son when police burst in, carrying a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Italian authorities. His lawyer Leon van Kleef said it was “like a bad movie, a nightmare that my client has found himself in”.
He continued: “Imagine one moment you are having a bite to eat and the next you are sat in a maximum-security Dutch prison.” He said his client “had anger and disbelief and laughter because it is ludicrous”.
“He is a normal Formula One fan. I was always convinced he was not [Denaro]. “It would have been a genius of an Italian to have such a strong Liverpool accent.”
A spokeswoman for the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office said Mark L stated he was an English citizen and protested his innocence. She added the outcome of the investigation, which was conducted via an accelerated procedure, “turned out to be negative”.
“The public prosecutor then issued an immediate release order at the beginning of the evening,” she said.
Denaro, who has been in hiding since 1993, is Italy’s most wanted mafioso and once boasted he could “fill a cemetery” with his victims.
He is also known as Diabolik – a nickname he took from an uncatchable thief in a comic book – and is seen as the successor to two jailed Mafia godfathers.
He is wanted for 50 murders and is the “capo di tutti capi” – the boss of all bosses – of the Sicilian Mafia.
Mr van Kleef said Mark L did not wish to be identified and would not comment further on the case.