A leader of one of Italy's most powerful mafias has been arrested in Colombia's second-largest city, Medellin, indicating the ongoing ties between organized crime groups in the two nations.
Domenico Trimboli, a 39-year-old Argentine who allegedly headed Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia, had been pursued by authorities for three years, reported Italian news agency ANSA. He was one of Europe's 20 most wanted criminals, reported Medellin newspaper El Colombiano, and faces 12 years in prison for drug trafficking offenses once extradited.
According to Italian daily La Stampa, Trimboli had lived in Colombia for years with his partner and two children. He was arrested in Medellin's wealthy neighborhood of Laureles. Nicola Gratteri, an Italian prosecutor in the Calabria region from which the 'Ndrangheta hails, said Trimboli "had a lot of money and this facilitated his peaceful stay in Colombia and his ability to do big business."
'Ndrangheta is Italy's richest and powerful mafia, with annual profits estimated to equal around 3 percent of Italy's GDP, due to its control over the European cocaine trade, said ANSA.
InSight Crime Analysis
Links between 'Ndrangheta and Colombian drug traffickers are believed to go back more than a decade. The Italian group began buying cocaine directly from Latin America in the 1990s and set up a local network in Colombia, according to Italian prosecutor and 'Ndragheta expert Enzo Macri, interviewed for a 2006 Guardian feature on the group. The US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) has records of 'Ndrangheta leader Santo Sciopone residing in Colombia since 2000, reported El Colombiano. Relations between 'Ndrangheta and Latin American drug traffickers are "excellent," a leader of the Italian group told German newspaper Speigel last year, with the "brotherhood" ensuring good prices and quality, and efficiency along the shipping chain.
Nicola Gratteri, who has specialized in tracking the 'Ndrangheta's growth, told the Guardian 80 percent of cocaine entering Europe was brought in by the group, which had more than 10,000 members in different countries. According to Macri, the syndicate "represents the globalization of Italian organised crime."