Italian authorities have seized a record 5.3-tonne cocaine haul being transferred between ships off the southern coast of Sicily. The consignment had an estimated value of 850 million euros ($946 million), and five people have been arrested, the Guardia di Finanza said in a statement. Police had been tracking a ship that sailed from South America and swooped in the early hours of Wednesday when a surveillance aircraft spotted packages being thrown into the water from the deck of the merchant’s vessel to be collected by a fishing trawler nearby.
Nets held the packages together, kept afloat by life preservers, and equipped with a flashing tracking device. The discovery represents one of the most significant drug seizures in the country’s history, Italy’s financial police said, adding that they had “dealt a major blow to the criminal network involved.” It was reportedly carrying out a transfer from a giant cargo ship to a smaller fishing boat. Two Tunisians, an Italian, a French, and an Albanian, have been arrested.
The haul was discovered off the port of Gioia Tauro, which is in southern Calabria, the heartland of the ‘Ndrangheta, a crime syndicate that eclipsed the traditional Sicilian mafia to become Europe’s most powerful organized crime group. It has been responsible for smuggling billions of euros worth of drugs into Europe in containers shipped from South America.
A spokesman for the local, provincial police told AFP that the five suspects had been arrested on suspicion of organizing and participating in trafficking in illicit substances and had also been detained in connection with illegal possession of firearms. The spokesman added that police continued searching the area for more floating packages.
A central Rochester-area drug ring shattered after New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced 48 arrests. She said the two-year investigation had significantly disrupted drug sales in Monroe, Wayne, Ulster, Ontario, Yates, Seneca, and Cayuga counties. James said the case focused on three interconnected networks selling heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.
She said the first group was based on Avenue D in Rochester and included people who sold drugs out of their homes and at gas stations and restaurants. She also said the second group distributed drugs to other regional resellers.
The final group involved a group of four individuals who allegedly bought fake Oxycodone and Adderall pills from Alton Countryman, an alleged drug dealer from Kingston. She said they then resold the fake pills to other dealers in Monroe, Wayne, and Ulster counties. She said the fifth conspiracy member, Anthony Cyntje, was an armed security guard who allegedly acted as a lookout during some deliveries. He has been charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Conspiracy in the Second Degree.