MILAN ( Associated Press) — Italian agents seized 4.3 tons of cocaine with a street value of almost 250 million euros in the northeastern port city of Trieste on Tuesday, dealing a heavy blow to the powerful Colombian cartel group. Clan del Golfo, in one of the largest drug seizures in the history of Europe.
Arrest warrants were executed for 38 people suspected of drug trafficking in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Colombia. The operation was carried out by the Italian financial police and coordinated by anti-mafia investigators, after a year-long investigation in which the United States Department of Homeland Security also participated.
The clandestine operation “dealt another heavy blow to one of the most important groups of Colombian drug traffickers,” anti-mafia investigators said in a statement.
Last month, the alleged leader of the Clan del Golfo was extradited from Colombia to the United States. Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, known as Otoniel, faces charges in three US federal courts.
Colombian President Iván Duque, at the time of the extradition, compared Otoniel to Pablo Escobar, the late head of the Medellín cartel, calling him the most dangerous drug trafficker in the world. The former rural warlord evaded capture for more than a decade by corrupting state officials and allying with fighters on the right and left.
Italian authorities estimate that criminal groups paid 96 million euros ($102 million) for the cocaine, which would have been worth 240 million euros on the Italian market. Italian undercover agents infiltrated the trafficking chain, which operated in the northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy, the central region of Lazio, which includes Rome, and the southern region of Calabria.
During the investigation, undercover agents participated in 19 “controlled deliveries” that led to the identification of major traffickers, both at the intermediary and international levels.
Apart from the drugs, the agents seized 1.8 million euros in cash, as well as vehicles used for trafficking, including a trailer truck.