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More than 200 arrested in joint anti-drug bust

Latest update : 2008-09-18

More than 200 suspected cocaine traffickers were arrested in Italy, the US and Latin America in a joint operation. Fourteen of those arrested are suspected of masterminding an international racket which also operated in other European countries.

Italian police said Wednesday more than 200 suspected cocaine traffickers had been arrested in Italy, the United States and Latin America in a joint operation with US authorities.

More than 16 tonnes of cocaine and about 57 million dollars (40 million euros) were seized in Latin America during a six-month investigation which led to the arrests, police said in a statement.

Among those detained in the United States and Italy's southern Calabria region were 16 suspected members of Italy's Ndrangheta mafia.

"More than 200 people were arrested early Wednesday, mainly in Mexico and Guatemala, but also in New York and Calabria," an Italian police investigator told AFP.

Fourteen of those held -- eight in Italy and six in New York -- are suspected of being the masterminds of the trafficking ring which operated between Latin America, the United States and Italy, as well as other European countries.

The other suspects, believed by investigators to be part of a Mexican cartel, were arrested in Mexico and Guatemala, the investigator told AFP without elaborating.

"This operation led to the break-up of major parts of one of the most active cartels in cocaine trafficking in Latin America," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The police statement said the cartel used an international distribution ring of some 1,400 people worldwide.

During the investigation officers uncovered the responsibilities of the cartel in the trafficking of dozens of tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis.

Giuseppe Coluccio, 41, a suspected Ndrangheta clan chief, who was on a list of the 30 most wanted people in Italy, was arrested in Canada in August as part of the investigation.

Italy's Eurispes institute for political, economic and social studies has estimated the Ndrangheta's turnover at 44 billion euros in 2007, or 2.9 percent of Italy's gross domestic product.

The organised crime group is mainly active in drug and arms trafficking, prostitution and extortion.

In February, a major anti-mafia crackdown in the United States and Italy had led to the arrest of 74 people.

Date created : 2008-09-17