ROME — A powerful network that trafficked cocaine between Colombia, Italy and the United States with the support of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group has been dismantled, Italian police said on Thursday.
As part of an operation named "Two Seas", Italian police, Colombian police and the US anti-drug agency DEA arrested 33 people including 11 in Italy and seized 11 tons of cocaine.
The drug, refined in Colombia, had been sent to Europe hidden in boxes of tropical fruit, police said.
Federico Cafiero, prosecutor in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy, told reporters the network was run by two Calabrian traffickers who were linked to the Colombians, although they were not part of any particular mafia clans.
The organisation also operated in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.
At the end of the joint police investigation that began in 2013, seven clandestine laboratories manufacturing cocaine were discovered in Colombia.
Traffickers in Colombia benefited from the protection of important members of the ELN which guaranteed transfers from laboratories to hiding places.
The drugs are were then passed to Los Urabenos, a paramilitary organisation of drugs traffickers responsible for sending drugs abroad, in most cases on small cargo ships or fishing boats. — AFP