HomeNewsBriefMassive Bust Shows Italian Mafia Role in LatAm Drug Trade
BRIEF

Massive Bust Shows Italian Mafia Role in LatAm Drug Trade

BRAZIL / 30 JUN 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Colombian, Italian and US authorities collaborated in a massive round-up of nearly 150 suspected members of a multicontinental drug trafficking ring, highlighting the deep links between Italian criminal organizations and Latin America's drug trade.

The operation saw the arrests of 144 suspects who were allegedly operating in Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Italy, according to La Repubblica, which also reported that authorities seized 11 tons of cocaine estimated to be worth some $3.3 billion.  

The trafficking ring was allegedly headed by brothers Franco and Giuseppe Cosimo Monteleone, suspected members of the powerful 'Ndrangheta crime organization based in the Calabria region of Italy. The arrests also targeted suspects allegedly belonging to the Colombian rebel group known as the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), as well as Colombia criminal groups known as bandas criminales, or BACRIM.

According to La Repubblica, the ELN provided security for drug labs and smuggling routes that carried the cocaine to BACRIM-controlled departure points, where it was loaded onto "go-fast boats" or commercial shipping vessels that trafficked the drugs to countries in the Caribbean and Central America for further shipment to Europe and the United States. Reuters reported that some of the contraband was hidden in shipments of tropical fruit.

The bust, dubbed "Operation Two Seas," comes just days after Italian police captured one of that country's most wanted fugitives, a suspected leading figure of 'Ndrangheta named Ernesto Fazzalari, who had been on the run since 1996.

InSight Crime Analysis

Operation Two Seas underscores the extent to which the 'Ndrangheta have made inroads in Latin America since the 1990s, when the group began importing Colombian cocaine to Europe. The presence of suspected 'Ndrangheta members has previously been detected in many of the Latin American countries named above, as well as in other countries in the region like Argentina.

Cultural and linguistic similarities, as well as strong trade and migration ties between Italy and many Latin American countries have likely contributed to the expansion of 'Ndrangheta operations in the region in recent years. According to some estimates, the group controls up to 80 percent of Europe's cocaine traffic.  

SEE ALSO: Coverage of European Organized Crime 

The recent bust is not the first of its kind, and it is unlikely to be the last. In June and October 2015, Italian and Latin American authorities mounted similar collaborative operations targeting 'Ndrangheta networks in the Americas, including one focusing on a cocaine trafficking ring with a presence in Costa Rica and New York City.

Given the 'Ndrangheta's geographic reach, financial power and criminal sophistication (pdf), this type of cooperation will be necessary for authorities as they continue efforts to disrupt the activities of the group and its affiliates going forward.

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

COCAINE EUROPE / 17 JUN 2021

A criminal group in Colombia is turning dirty money into adulterated gold, in the latest addition to a long list…

COLOMBIA / 4 JUL 2022

While the death of Iván Márquez is yet to be confirmed, his passing would mark a major turning point in…

COCAINE / 3 FEB 2022

Central American countries seized a record amount of drugs last year, underscoring how the region has become one of the…

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…