From Colombia to Italy: the travel of cocaine through rackets

In Calabria, the “toe” of Italy, the Ndrangheta, an infamous criminal syndicate, started to work with drugs in the late 1970's, when they were looking around for something new in which reinvest their fortunes, so the clans hit upon the profitable trade in narcotics. They bought heroin from the Turks, hashish from the Moroccans and a variety of drugs in the Lebanon.

At the start of the 1990s, there was a fundamental shift in the drugs market, there was a sharp drop in the demand for heroin and an equally sharp increase in rise in the demand for cocaine. At first the Ndrangheta bought their cocaine from the more powerful and pervasive Cosa Nostra, another organisation from Sicily, which already worked with the Colombian cartels. But for the end of the 1990's the Ndrangheta had a network of local representatives established in Colombia. The Calabrians are more reliable, they don't talk and they pay on time, so the Colombians prefer to deal with them.

Ndrangheta is all around, is like an octopus whose tentacles reach everywhere. In the annual report of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission in 2010, Vincenzo Macrì, anti mafia prosecutor and author of the report, confirmed that Ndrangheta has spread throughout northern Italy, and Milan is the major centre of cocaine and narcotics trafficking. The drugs market is still in their hands, but recently they have had huge loses in their organization.

In June 2013 Roberto Pannunzi (pictured above), known as the Pablo Escobar of Italy, the crime lord alleged to be at the head to Ndrangheta in Italy was detained in a shopping mall in Colombia.
Pannunzi is said to have imported two tons of cocaine every month, trafficking shipments from Colombia to Europe. He has done more than any other mafia boss to bring the smuggling of cocaine and heroin into the modern age by becoming a trusted middleman for trade across continents. He was on excellent terms with Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra but also with the Colombian drug cartels. His name was a byword for high-quality cocaine.  Roberto Saviano, an investigative Italian writer, has said that the arrest of Pannunzi “could change the history of drug trafficking in Italy and internationally. He was a sort of Copernicus of cocaine. He changed the way the business works, he understood the new dynamics of the cocaine market. He collected money from the various families, often rival families, and bought cocaine in Colombia. He could manage fleets of ships to bring it to Europe.”

The second attack to Ndrangheta was in February 2014 when the FBI and Italian police broke a global and cocaine trafficking ring after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabria Mafia group and associates of New York's notorious Gambino crime family. Operation “New Bridge” had dismantled a major criminal plan intended to facilitate the international trade of drugs, weapons and laundered money between Italy, the US, Canada and Latin America. After two years of investigation carried out by police on both sides of the Atlantic, investigators had stopped the delivery of 500 kg of cocaine to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro from Guyana.

Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States, thanks an undercover agent named as “Jimmy”, who had infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. The cocaine trade continues to be very profitable business, so we can expect European criminal organisations to continue using it to make their fortunes, until the end of the war on drugs.