Authorities in Southern Italy last week seized cocaine worth an estimated $84 million after traffickers threw packages of the drug into the Mediterranean Sea while travelling to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro,
According to police, officers found 17 waterproof bags containing high-purity cocaine floating in the water attached to buoys, which the smugglers had lobbed overboard, presumably for their associates to retrieve later.
It is suspected that the ‘Ndrangheta cartel was behind the shipment, which was monitored by customs officials as it made its way to Italy from Brazil – a route popular with traffickers looking to smuggle drugs into southern Europe. All nine crew members on the boat were arrested.
Police found 385kgs of cocaine in the containers after the crew members attempted their low-tech smuggling effort, which is thought to be a relatively new approach to sneaking contraband past customs officials.
The feared ‘Ndrangheta clan suspected of having coordinated the trafficking attempt are considered to be far more dangerous than the Sicilian mafia, and are thought to have made more money than Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined in just one year. The syndicate has spread its tentacles into almost every area of organised crime in Italy, and operates in as many as 30 other countries round the world as far afield as Australia.
As well as drug trafficking, the group is suspected of being involved in embezzlement, extortion, people smuggling, counterfeit goods, tobacco smuggling, and a range of other illegal activities. Members of the ‘Ndrangheta are renowned for using appalling levels of violence against anybody who stands in their way. One of the group’s bosses is said to have fed one rival to starving pigs while the victim was still alive.
Separately last week, police at Fiumicino Airport in Rome arrested a Brazilian man for attempting to smuggle liquid cocaine into the country concealed in the soles of his trainers.
Customs officers became suspicious when they searched the man, only to find multiple pairs of running shoes in his luggage and very little else. Police believe the drugs, which were injected into part of the man’s footwear that would typically contain a cushioning liquid or air, could have been worth as much as 2 million euros.
“Only an expert would have been able to tell the liquid wasn’t the usual gel,” Italy’s financial police said on Saturday.
The would-be drug smuggler was arrested and charged with attempting to illegally traffic 7kgs of liquid cocaine into the country – an offence which is likely to lead to a substantial custodial sentence if he is found guilty.