Spanish and Italian police have arrested four suspected drug traffickers and confiscated 380 kilograms of cocaine in what they say marks an attempt by the Mexican Sinaloa cartel to establish a foothold in the European drug market.
Two Guatemalan citizens were arrested in the Italian city of Verona, while an Italian and a Spanish man were detained in Barcelona, Spain. Police are searching for three other suspects, two of whom they believe may have returned to South America, while another may be hiding in Spain, according to a statement by Spanish police.
The operation began last December when the Colombian authorities of the Anti-Narcotics Directorate (Diran) and the Italian financial police, Guardia di Finanza, requested the collaboration of the Spanish National Police, regarding a shipment of 380 kilos of cocaine that they were tracking from Colombia to Sicily.
The cargo left Bogota and passed through Madrid and Rome before arriving in the Sicilian city of Catania. The value of the cocaine seized in Catania during the operation was estimated at around 20 million euros.
In a press release, Spanish police said that investigators had learned that a member of the Sinaloa trafficking organisation had travelled to Europe to receive the drug shipment in Italy from where it would be distributed across the continent.
The man is believed to be very close to the chief of the Sinaloa cartel, who after Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s arrest in 2010 is thought to be Ismael Zambada García.
The Mexican cartel is perhaps the most powerful and violent cocaine trafficking organisation in the world. Until now the United States has been its primary market, but investigators believe that the attempted shipment of cocaine to Italy marks a new departure for the organisation as it tries to expand its operations into Europe.