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.




 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.