Maltese actor in major cocaine trafficking ring wanted for extradition to Italy
A Maltese man suspected of being a key figure in a major cocaine trafficking ring between Italy and Malta has been arrested in Malta following a request from Italian authorities.
John Spiteri, 56, known as Gianni, was arrested in Malta on Friday under a European arrest warrant issued by Italian police.
He is expected to be arraigned on Saturday afternoon, with a court set to decide on his transfer to Italy where he will face conspiracy and racketeering charges linked to a major cross-European drug smuggling operation.
Last year, Spiteri was among a group of 16 people arrested in Italy as part of a covert police operation aimed at dismantling a drug ring that transported cocaine and cannabis to Malta and Italy.
Called “Operation Valletta”, the Italian investigation had discovered how the criminal organization had transported drugs from Albania and the Italian regions of Puglia and Calabria to Sicily and Malta, where they were sold.
Spiteri is believed to have handled the Maltese part of the operation.
A total of 430 kg of cannabis, cannabis resin and cocaine were seized by the Italian Guardia di Finanza in connection with the arrest.
Around 100 officers from Italy’s Guardia di Finanza financial police in Catania, Sicily and the Serious Crimes Unit were involved in the investigation, which was carried out in Catania, Ragusa and Syracuse in Sicily and Calabria in mainland Italy.
Wiretapping, Murders and Drugs – Court Documents Criminal Conspiracy
The main Malta-Italy drug ring has been laid bare in Italian court documents which detail how cocaine and cannabis were smuggled to the island using a local ferry company before being hidden in an Attard fruit and vegetable store.
The documents, seen by Malta weatherinclude tons of transcripts of conversations recorded inside drug dealers’ cars as well as intercepted phone calls between Maltese and Italian traffickers who eventually turned around.
At one point, they even mentioned the murder of one of their associates whom they suspected of collaborating with the police.
Fabian Catania, also 55, was named as one of the Maltese players but was not arrested during ‘Operation Valletta’.
He is already facing criminal charges in Malta for alleged drug trafficking dating back to 2018.
Documents compiled by Italian prosecutors paint a picture of how Spiteri and Italian Rosario Amico organized drug shipments from Puglia to Malta between 2018 and 2019 and how Catania acted as a courier driving an Isuzu registered in Malta.
Other Italians and Albanians had also delivered shipments to Italy and Malta.
The investigation began by focusing on Amico, with the police scrambling to leave him, creating a network of known associates across Sicily, southern Italy and Malta.
Living well beyond your means
CCTV of Amico’s home and his multiple back-to-back trips to Malta led police to review his finances with the tax authorities who found he was living well beyond his means.
He regularly bought new luxury cars and boats and owned two prestigious properties while declaring a modest income.
Checks with Maltese ferry company Virtu Ferries established that he traveled to Malta several times a year, as did an associate of its Albanian national Eriseld Hoxhaj, known as Riku.
“Various [drug] transfers to Malta were checked through boarding lists provided by Virtu Ferries by Hoxhaj, Amico and others,” the documents say.
Amico’s son Ray is also said to be traveling with the group and Italian investigators have established that he was delegated by his father to collect payment for drug shipments and to maintain contact with Spiteri, who ran the Maltese side of the squad. ‘operation.
Wiretaps of conversations between Amico and Spiteri are described by Italian prosecutors as “typical of the dynamics of narcotics trafficking” in which they discuss the prices of shipments and new delivery methods.
Prosecutors say there was a heated payment dispute with Spiteri over the shipment of cannabis packages.
In an intercept, two of Amico’s associates are heard discussing how they feared Spiteri wanted them dead.
“Surely Gianni [Spiteri] paid them to kill me…he wanted to kill me! says an unnamed suspect in a lengthy transcript.
Later, the documents explain how the Maltese Attorney General’s office informed Italian prosecutors that Catania was arrested in Malta in June 2018 after being found in possession of 85 kg of cannabis.
An Attard fruit and vegetable store
The drugs, believed to be from the same smuggling operation, were found hidden in a fruit and vegetable store in Attard. A garage and warehouse in Marsa have also been identified.
In another section of the court documents, Italian prosecutors detail how Amico and Spiteri met in Sicily and at one point discussed the use of plastic drink containers to smuggle drugs into Malta.
During this meeting, Amico warned Spiteri that their Albanian associates were becoming more aware of him.
“They are convinced that you are dangerous, reckless and that when you try to make more and more money, you are not careful enough,” Amico told Spiteri in an intercept.
Amico continues to implore Spiteri to be careful. Caution, he says, is essential to avoid “unpleasant surprises”.
“You can’t neglect this otherwise you’re done. People end up in jail; are we going to end there too? The police have their eyes open. We do not import sweets or cakes here. Do you understand?” Amico tells him.
‘Dad they are waiting for you’
Spiteri then tells Amico that he fears that he and his brother are in grave danger. He tells Amico that “the Croats” are looking for him for an €80,000 debt and that he fears they intend to kill him.
Later, Spiteri tells Amico that they have a problem with one of their drug couriers and may need to take matters into their own hands.
“We have to get rid of that asshole…that guy who opened his mouth…that guy who drove the truck,” Spiteri said.
In a later transcript, ostensibly fearing the closure of the noose of law enforcement, Amico tells Spiteri that he is confident that if he goes to Malta his passport will be seized.
“My son Pietro said to me when he last came back: ‘Dad, they are waiting for you there’.”
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