EuropePorts and Logistics

Police take down criminal network moving tonnes of cocaine through the port of Gioia Tauro

With the support of Europol and Eurojust, the Italian Financial Corps has dismantled a criminal network which relied on corrupt workers in the port of Gioia Tauro to smuggle hundreds of millions of euros’ worth of cocaine into Europe.

Yesterday, saw some 300 police officers carry out coordinated raids against the members of a criminal syndicate linked to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. Property searches were carried out in the provinces of Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valentia, Bari, Naples, Rome, Terni, Vicenza, Milan and Novara, resulting so far in 31 arrests and EUR7m worth of criminal assets being seized.

These arrests follow a complex investigation in which over 4 tonnes of cocaine imported by the criminals have been seized, with an estimated street value exceeding EUR800m.

The investigation identified a corrupt customs officer who allegedly altered the outcome of an x-ray scan performed on a container containing 300 kilos of cocaine. He is believed to have received a sum equivalent to 3 % of the value of the illicit cargo for this.

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with Europol, the Italian investigators were also able to identify the other members of this criminal network including members of the ‘Ndrangheta, who would arrange for the cocaine to be shipped from South America; field coordinators, who would recruit and manage the corrupted dockers, paying them a commission varying between 7 to 20 % of the value of the illegal cargo; complicit port operators who would arrange for the contaminated containers to not be intercepted as they were being smuggled into the port of Gioia Tauro.

The investigation also made it possible to identify the criminal masterminds responsible for organising the massive importation of cocaine from South America to Calabria, characterised by periodic shipments of two tonnes each. These criminals feature among the suspects arrested today.

The majority of the international drug trade for product manufactured in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, passes through Brazilian ports, specifically the Port of Santos, one of the most important trafficking arteries to Europe, according to Europol.

The Italian mafia remains at the forefront of the cocaine trafficking expansion, but they are no longer the only European criminals establishing upstream operations. The Balkan wars of the 1990s allowed organised crime to thrive in the region.

Europol reported earlier that Serbian organised crime groups are particularly prominent at the port of Santos.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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