Italy thwarts Colombian cartel with massive cocaine haul

ROME (AFP) – Italian police yesterday said they had seized over two tonnes of pure cocaine from Colombia in the biggest drug bust in Italy of the past 25 years.

The drugs, with a street value of around 500 million euros (USD574 million), were discovered last week packed into 60 bags at the port of Genoa in a container from the South American country destined for Barcelona in Spain.

“The drugs belonged to several drug-trafficking organisations associated with the armed group known as the ‘Gulf Clan’,” a police statement said in reference to Colombia’s famed drug cartel.

The Gulf Clan accounts for about 70 per cent of Colombia’s cocaine production and uses violence and intimidation to control narcotics trafficking routes, cocaine processing laboratories and departure points.

Police replaced the 1,801 packets of cocaine with salt and sent the cargo on its way in a ploy to catch the drug runners, according to media reports.

A 59-year old Spanish national was arrested in Barcelona when he attempted to collect the shipment, police said.

Once in Barcelona, the drug was destined to supply a Europe-wide market.

The raid followed an international investigation involving police from Britain, Spain and Colombia, which is the world’s leading coca leaf grower and also the biggest source of cocaine, according to the UN.