Mafia drug profits on the rebound

Mafia drug profits on the rebound
The mafia is returning to drug trafficking as a source of income. Photo: Flickr
Italian police on Wednesday arrested 24 suspected mafia members for alleged involvement in drug trafficking, including a local boss who officially worked as the director of a funeral home.

Prosecutors said their probe had shown that the mafia was returning to the high profits from drugs since revenues from extortion were going down because of Italy's prolonged economic crisis.

"Cosa Nostra is re-becoming a player in drug trafficking. Revenue from extortion is drying up and the clans need other paths to enrichment," Palermo prosecutor Francesco Messineo said.

"Door-to-door racketeering is no longer viable. It's risky and the revenue is too low," he said.

The police also released video showing vintage Dom Perignon champagne bottles found in one raid, a group of suspects setting fire to a bar and another group plotting to kill a father and son.

Wiretaps of conversations including the chief suspect, Alessandro D'Ambrogio, and other alleged drug dealers were also provided to the media.

"We're not joking around any more. You want Sicily? I give you Sicily. Only I can give it to you," a suspect is heard telling one dealer.

"I weigh 100 kilos (221 pounds) and I can weigh even more because I eat a lot," he says in what police said was a reference to a cocaine shipment.

Investigators in the operation codenamed "Alexander" said they found close ties between two traditionally rival mafia clans in handling drug shipments from North Africa and South America.

The 39-year-old D'Ambrogio — known as "The Little One" — is alleged to lead the Porta Nuova clan and was filmed at a saint's feast day in Palermo surrounded by associates and people coming to him for business advice and personal issues.

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