HomeNewsBriefItalian Mafia Cocaine Broker Arrested in Colombia
BRIEF

Italian Mafia Cocaine Broker Arrested in Colombia

COLOMBIA / 8 JUL 2013 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Authorities arrested a cocaine broker who acted as a link between Italy's mafia clans and Colombian cocaine suppliers, in perhaps the biggest blow yet to recently revived Colombia-Italy drug trafficking operations.

Roberto Pannunzi, alias "Bebe" (Baby), was captured in a Bogota shopping center on July 5 and two days later extradited to Italy, where he is facing an outstanding conviction, reported El Tiempo.

Pannunzi has been at the center of the cocaine trade between Colombia and Italy for over 30 years, and was one of the first Italians to establish links with Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel during the '80s cocaine boom.

Although widely considered an integral figure in mafia drug interests, Pannunzi operated independently, serving as an intermediary for Italy's main cocaine traffickers in the 'Ndrangheta mafia clans, while also maintaining links with the Cosa Nostra, according to Italian prosecutors, who labeled him the "biggest cocaine importer in the world."

Pannunzi was renowned as a skilled diplomat, who pioneered a cooperative approach to cocaine trafficking by convincing distinct and sometimes antagonistic criminal organizations to pool resources to buy shipments, which he would then transport to Europe.

Authorities believe he was operating primarily in Colombia and Venezuela but also had connections to Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Pannunzi has been arrested twice before, once in Colombia in 1994, and then again in Spain in 2004. The first time, he was freed because he could no longer legally be held on remand. The second time, he escaped from a hospital after complaining of health problems.

InSight Crime Analysis

Pannunzi's capture is the latest in a series of arrests of Italian mafia figures in Colombia. So far this year, Iacomino Tomasso, who organized cocaine shipments for the La Camorra mafia, and Santo Scipione and Domenico Trimboli, who worked with the 'Ndrangheta, have also been captured. However, with his long history and broad network of contacts, Pannunzi's capture may prove to be the most significant.

Authorities believe the recent arrests are indicative of a surge in Italy-Colombia drug trafficking operations, which they say are a result of mafia figures released from prison looking to re-establish old connections.

However, with Italian mafia groups having also established relations with Mexican cartels over the last decade, it could be that their return to Colombia is also driven by a desire to control the cocaine trade closer to the source. Arguably, Colombia has also become a more appealing country for independent drug traffickers, as its fractured underworld has created more space for those looking to establish their own drug trafficking connections. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 22 MAR 2011

New evidence has emerged linking Colombian “emerald czar” Victor Carranza to paramilitary groups, but it is unlikely to…

COLOMBIA / 20 FEB 2014

A recording made by a journalist in Colombia of a phone call with prison based extortionists shows how these criminals sometimes…

COCA / 8 AUG 2013

The annual United Nations report on coca cultivation in Colombia shows the number of hectares cultivated has dropped by a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.