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Italy, US crack down on mafia drug smuggling

ROME — US and Italian authorities said Tuesday that they had broken up a new heroin and cocaine trafficking ring coordinated by Italy’s powerful ’Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate and New York City’s Gambino crime family. Seventeen people were arrested in Italy and another seven in New York, officials said.

The investigation underscored how ’Ndrangheta is spreading its operations beyond Italy’s borders as it consolidates its position as one of the world’s most powerful drug traffickers, officials said. It also laid bare how the ’Ndrangheta, based in the southern region of Calabria, is encroaching on territory once occupied by the Cosa Nostra.

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Italian police said the operation targeted a new cocaine trafficking route from South America to the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro that united the Gambinos with the ’Ndrangheta. In exchange, the Italians were to provide heroin to the American market.

Officials said they thwarted the delivery to Italy of 500
kilograms of pure cocaine that was to have been hidden in shipments of canned coconuts and pineapples being shipped from Guyana to Gioia Tauro.

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