Italian police seize €50 million stash of ‘Isis drugs’

Police in Italy have seized a stash of drugs that they believe Isis planned to sell to finance terrorist attacks, authorities said on Friday.

Italian police seize €50 million stash of 'Isis drugs'
Italy's largest container port, Gioia Tauro. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

Customs officials discovered more than 24 million pills of a powerful opiate at Italy’s largest container port, south-western Gioia Tauro, according to prosecutors in the nearby city of Reggio Calabria.

The drugs, prescription painkillers called Tramadol, had arrived from India and were destined for Libya, where authorities believe Isis planned to sell them to its own fighters as a fix for pain and exhaustion.

With a price tag of around €2 per pill, the consignment would likely have made the group some €50 million, prosecutors said.

As well as being a money-spinner, Tramadol helps to numb Isis recruits as they wage terror. The group is believed to supply its foot soldiers with painkillers and amphetamines to suppress their fear, pain, hunger and fatigue.

Italian police intercepted an even bigger shipment of Tramadol in May at the port of Genoa, when traffickers attempted to smuggle 36 million pills hidden in bottles of shampoo.

What’s significant in this latest case, according to prosecutors, is that Gioia Tauro port has long been controlled by the region’s organised crime syndicate, the ‘Ndràngheta – which suggests that the group could be collaborating with Islamic State traffickers.

“We’ve known of connections between the ‘Ndràngheta and Middle Eastern organizations for some time,” Gaetano Paci, the Reggio Calabria magistrate in charge of anti-mafia cases, told La Repubblica.

“Even though investigative pressure has made the port less ‘safe’ for the mob, we have identified several carriers and families linked to the ‘Ndràngheta who seem to be engaged in various types of trafficking with organisations in the Middle East,” he said.

For now prosecutors are still “trying to join the dots,” according to Paci.   


 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

Italian police on Saturday arrested a mafia member suspected of killing two alleged Chinese prostitutes and a Colombian sex worker in Rome, local media reported.

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

The bodies of the two Chinese women were discovered in a residential building in the upmarket Prati district on Thursday morning, while the body of the South American was found in an apartment in the same neighbourhood an hour later.

All three victims were stabbed, according to Italian media reports.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, footage from surveillance cameras allowed police to identify 51-year-old Giandavide De Pau, who had been prosecuted in the past for drug trafficking and sexual assault.

The suspect is reportedly a member of a mafia clan headed by Michele Senese, who is currently serving a life sentence. De Pau is believed to have been one of Senese’s closest collaborators, acting as his personal driver and handyman.

In 2008 and 2011, the suspect had also spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

It is unknown whether the suspected killer was carrying out a mafia hit or acting alone, possibly under the influence of drugs, which were found at the home of some family members where he is believed to have sought refuge after the police manhunt got underway, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several newspapers had warned of a possible “serial killer” in the Italian capital.

The body of one of the Chinese victims was spotted by a neighbour where it lay, naked on a landing. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, had suffered head and stomach injuries, the newspaper said.

When police entered her apartment, they found the body of the second Chinese woman.

Nobody in the building appeared to have heard the murders take place, according to residents.

“Everybody knew there was a house of ill repute here, I’d see people arriving at 2:00 am, 3:00 am,” a woman who lived in the building told reporters.

The body of the Colombian, who was 65, was found by a friend, Corriere della Sera said.