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

COLOMBIA / 17 JAN 2012

The Colombian government is stepping up security measures along the eastern border with Venezuela, where the head of the country's…

COCAINE / 25 MAR 2020

A new book by a veteran reporter provides a comprehensive picture of Colombia’s modern-day cocaine trafficking networks and their devastating…

COLOMBIA / 13 SEP 2011

Colombian authorities intercepted a go-fast boat carrying 2.2 tons of cocaine close to the border with Panama, off the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.