Rome (AFP) - Italian police said they caught a criminal gang Tuesday that had been plotting to steal the body of Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari for ransom.
Detectives in Sardinia said they had stumbled across the plot while investigating a group of 30 or so crooks who were involved in drug and arms trafficking on the Italian island but were exploring other cash-making ideas.
One was a plan to steal the mortal remains of the racing driver -- who founded the Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and prancing horse brand before dying -- and demand money from his family for the body's safe return.
They had plotted in detail how to steal the coffin, hide it, and contact the family, police said.
Ferrari, who died aged 90 in 1988, is buried in a cemetery in Modena behind a plate of marble in a large chapel secured by a heavy iron gate.
Some 300 officers armed with over 30 arrest warrants clapped the gang members in cuffs early Tuesday morning, police said.
Italy is no stranger to body-abduction cases. Among the most famous was the theft in 1992 of the body of four-year-old Raffaele Bagni -- the son of a former football player -- a month after his death in a car accident.
It was Italian cases that inspired the theft in 1978 of Charlie Chaplin's coffin in Switzerland by a Polish and Bulgarian grave robber.