Italy thwarts Colombian cartel with massive cocaine haul

Italian police have seized over two tonnes of pure cocaine from Colombia in Italy’s biggest drugs bust in 25 years.

Italy thwarts Colombian cartel with massive cocaine haul
Italian police seized the cocaine at the port of Genoa. Photo: AFP/GUARDIA DI FINANZA

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.




Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.