Italian police have arrested a British former professional boxer in Rome on suspicion of delivering funds to Islamist terror cells in Italy.
Officers identified him as Hussain Shamshir, aged 34, a Briton of Pakistani origin.
He was arrested Saturday while driving in the capital’s suburb of Torpignattara with three other men in a German-registered Volkswagen car.
He was found to be travelling on a false British passport, sources said.
Described by Italian police as a former professional boxer who worked as a pizza baker in a London suburb, Shamshir was carrying 5,000 euros (£3,500) in cash when he was stopped for questioning by anti-terrorist police who had been tailing his vehicle.
Shamshir was quoted as saying the cash was for buying clothing for relatives in Belgium.
The three men with him, two Pakistanis and a Kurd, were released after questioning.
Carabinieri paramilitary police investigators believe that the money was brought to Rome to finance terrorist sleeper cells or terrorist attacks, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
Police sources said Shamshi was wanted by police in Britain for crimes of physical violence.
An investigating judge ordered that he be held in the Reginal Coeli prison on the banks of the Tiber pending trial or possible extradition as police try to determine more about what he was doing in Rome.
“Her Majesty’s Security Services are ready to ask a British judge to issue a European arrest warrant for his extradition,” the Corriere quoted judicial sources saying.
Police tightened security in the centre of Rome yesterday as Italy celebrated Liberation Day marking the end of Fascism on the peninsula and Italian President Sergio Mattarella placed a wreath in memory of Italian anti-fascist Resistance heroes in a ceremony at the Altar to the Homeland monument in the vast Piazza Venezia.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government insists it is doing everything possible to ensure Italy is spared terrorist attacks of the kind that have ripped through Paris and Brussels.
Last week Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano strongly denied a report in the German tabloid Bild that Isil is planning attacks on beaches in Italy.
“We are working hard on the prevention plan through intercepts, personal checks, controls of ships and vehicles, expulsion of radicalised people,” Alfano said.
“No country is at zero risk but up to now the prevention has worked.”
Shamshir was quoted as telling police who arrested him that he had relatives living in Belgium for whom he
was on a shopping expedition in Rome.
Police sources said that the Belgian connection was one of the reasons he was arrested as well as the false passport, large amount of cash and criminal record in the UK.
Police did not immediately confirm a report that Shamsha was being interrogated in connection with Isis terrorist attacks in Belgium, however.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: ” We are in contact with Italian authorities following the arrest of a British national in Rome.”