An English Formula 1 fan in the Netherlands fell victim to a fatal mistake: the 54-year-old was mistaken for a Sicilian mafia boss by the authorities and therefore ended up behind bars.

The Liverpool man was finally released on Saturday after three days in prison.

A heavily armed police force arrested the Englishman in a restaurant in The Hague on Wednesday. The police stormed the place, handcuffed the man and blindfolded him. The Italian law enforcement authorities had previously issued an international arrest warrant for the man. They mistook him for the Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993.

After his arrest, the man was taken to the maximum security prison in Vught, where some of the country's most notorious criminals are held. "The man who was arrested earlier this week in a restaurant in The Hague is not the man the Italian authorities are looking for," said the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office after checking the identity of the arrested person. He was therefore released "immediately".

Leon van Kleef, the mistake's attorney, told the AFP news agency that, according to his own account, his client traveled from his home in Spain to the Netherlands to watch the Formula 1 race in Zandvoort last weekend. What the man then experienced was "like a bad film, a nightmare". Van Kleef also said he is looking into possible claims for damages.

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