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. 

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 29 NOV 2016

A report by Colombia's Comptroller General details the state's failure to control runaway overcrowding in prisons despite major investments, highlighting…

COLOMBIA / 3 JAN 2011

With the end of 2010 comes a glut of statistics about rising versus decreasing crime rates across the hemisphere. In…

AUC / 8 NOV 2012

Colombia has captured a former paramilitary leader and Urabeños head accused of some 130 murders, providing…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…