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Italy thwarts Colombian cartel with massive cocaine haul

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 Italy thwarts Colombian cartel with massive cocaine haul
Italian police seized the cocaine at the port of Genoa. Photo: AFP/GUARDIA DI FINANZA
13:02 CET+01:00
Italian police have seized over two tonnes of pure cocaine from Colombia in Italy’s biggest drugs bust in 25 years.

Police said today that the drugs, with a street value of around 500 million euros, were discovered last week packed into 60 bags at the port of Genoa in a container destined for Barcelona in Spain.

"The drugs belonged to several drug-trafficking organisations associated with the armed group known as the 'Gulf Clan'," the police statement said in reference to Colombia's famed drug cartel.

Cocaine seized at the port of Genoa. Photo: AFP/GUARDIA DI FINANZA

The Gulf Clan accounts for about 70 percent of Colombia's cocaine production and uses violence and intimidation to control narcotics trafficking routes, cocaine processing laboratories and departure points.

The raid followed an international investigation involving police from Colombia, Britain and Spain.

The latest haul came after the news yesterday that Italian police had discovered almost 650 kilos (1,400 pounds) of cocaine in a shipping container of coffee beans in another major bust.

That batch, found in 23 large bags during a search at the port of Livorno in Tuscany, has a street value of 130 million euros.

The cocaine, discovered on January 15, was in a container that had set off from Honduras, before being transferred to another cargo ship in Costa Rica. Its final destination was Barcelona, police said.

READ ALSO: Italy police find cocaine among spicy sausages

"The port of Genoa, along with Livorno, has become the new crossroads for international smuggling," Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told a press conference.

"Genoa port has replaced Gioia Tauro," he said, in reference to the Calabrian port which is in the steely grip of the powerful 'Ndrangheta organised crime group, thought to run much of Europe's cocaine trade.

Italian police netted some 270 kilos of heroin in a container from Iran in Genoa port in November, and arrested two alleged smugglers in an operation involving forces in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Drug-trafficking hunters said Wednesday they had arrested four people from the Casamonica clan in Rome in cuffs for alleged cocaine trafficking in an operation dubbed "Brasil Low Cost".

The Casamonica, which has ethnic Sinti roots, was one of the alleged crime networks accused of infiltrating the Italian capital's government and influencing politicians in a large-scale corruption investigation in 2015.

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