Italian court documents denounce Italy-Malta drug network
Drug traffickers have used secret compartments hidden in cars to smuggle cocaine into Malta via a local ferry company, according to Italian court documents.
Italian finance police on Tuesday dismantled an international cocaine smuggling ring run by the criminal group ‘Ndrangheta after deciphering a secret code they were using to communicate on popular messaging platforms.
More than 400 officers carried out dawn raids across Italy, armed with 57 arrest warrants after a four-year dubbed “Crypto” investigation into more than 90 suspects, many of whom are from known Mafia families.
Those arrested are accused of smuggling large quantities of cocaine from northern Europe and Spain to Italy, hiding it in false bottoms of car trunks and other concealed compartments, and in some cases to then transfer it to Malta.
How drug traffickers transported cocaine to Malta
Sealed court documents submitted for the case, viewed by Malta Hours, details how a drug dealer was arrested shortly after taking a shipment of cocaine to Malta.
The drug, which would have been a ‘tester’ kilogram for a Maltese buyer interested in buying more, had a market value of over € 50,000.
According to the evidence file, Orazio Coco, one of the suspected drug mules, traveled to Malta via Virtu Ferries in a Fiat Punto hatchback on February 23, 2018.
Coco is accused of traveling to Malta to make contact with local drug buyers before returning to Sicily two days later.
In another case, a certain Ivan Meo, along with two other people using false identity documents, traveled from Pozzallo to Malta in a Peugeot 307.
A search of the car revealed traces of cocaine and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
A thorough search of the vehicle led to the discovery of a secret compartment near the left rear wheel arch which could be accessed by removing a plastic cover which in turn is attached to a metal plate.
Inside the compartment, police found a “noose in the shape of a noose” on a rope which they said was used to secure packages of drugs for contraband.
It is very likely, according to the documents, that Meo had just transported drugs to Malta and was returning to Italy with the money received from the sale.
‘Team’ of drug traffickers working for ‘Ndrangheta
Meo is believed to be part of a “team” of drug traffickers from Catania who regularly transported drugs to Malta on behalf of the “Ndrangheta”.
After analyzing the passenger manifests, Italian investigators discovered that Meo and his associates made several trips to Malta on the catamaran for two or three day trips throughout 2017.
Brother I sent it five times to Malta, you know I’m out of Malta
After Meo’s arrest and detention in Catania, the entire Calabrian drug operation quickly changed its method of communication and reportedly began using encrypted phones.
However, before that, investigators had managed to crack a code that the drug network was using to communicate.
“They communicated via a complex code matching numbers to seemingly random letters of the alphabet, without any spaces or punctuation,” Captain Carmine Virno, whose team conducted the investigation, said during the presentation. of the case in Italy on Tuesday.
“The Ndrangheta crime families in Gioia Tauro and Rosarno in southern Italy have made direct contact with South American suppliers through an intermediary in the Dominican Republic.
How investigators cracked the drug network
Virno’s team worked painstakingly on a code that drug dealers used until they broke it when they figured out the word ‘con’, which means ‘with’ in English.
Officers who searched the home of a member of the upper circle discovered a pizzino with the alphabet written in blue and the corresponding numbers below in red.
A pizzas is a small piece of paper traditionally used by the Sicilian Mafia for high level secret communications.
This one, carefully cut out in a squared notebook, encoded large orders of cocaine.
Once the code was cracked, police resorted to old-fashioned surveillance techniques to gather evidence against the suspects, who were adept at evading modern technological traps, he said.
Some 3.7 million euros in assets were seized during searches.
What is’ Ndrangheta?
Based in Calabria, ‘Ndrangheta is considered one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world due to its control over the cocaine movement in Europe.
It has extended its reach to all parts of the world and has long overtaken Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as Italy’s largest mafia organization.
The investigation showed that the ‘Ndrangheta families nevertheless believed that the Sicilian Mafia had its uses.
They linked up with the powerful Cappello family in Catania to organize cocaine shipments to Malta.
In an exchange of text between members of the Cappello family, the shipment of drugs, Mexican cocaine, to Malta was discussed, court documents reveal.
“We have money and in two weeks the plane will arrive [from Mexico] with my things and we move ”, one reads in a text.
The exchange then details how the drug dealer made a nice profit by moving cocaine, via a runner, to the island.
“Brother, I sent him five times to Malta, you know that I am coming out of Malta; you understand me ? Do you understand what I am saying? You know what it means to pay forty-four [a reference to cash payments]? We come and go the next day and plof! And you leave and come back loaded ”, ends the change of text.
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