Italian Police
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Italian police have reportedly taken hold of 4.3 tons of cocaine with a street value of €240 million ($257 million) after carrying out a heavy blow to the Colombian Clan del Golfo drugs gang, investigators confirmed on Tuesday.

According to the police, it was one of the largest seizures in Europe. At the end of an international investigation, it resulted in arrest warrants being issued for 38 people in six countries, including Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Colombia.

Colombian authorities stated in Nov. 2021 that they were focusing and working on breaking up the Clan del Golfo gang, whose network extends widely to 28 countries around the world, after the capture of the group's leader, Dairo Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel," in October.

"Another hard blow to the most important group among Colombian narcotics gangs," Italian investigators from the northeastern city of Trieste said of the seizure. The investigation reportedly lasted for more than a year, involving both the Colombian judiciary and US Homeland Security. Police also seized €1.85 million in cash.

Police successfully uncovered a "dense network" of ties between South American cocaine producers and European buyers, who answered to organized crime groups operating across Italy, including in Calabria, home of the known 'Ndrangheta mafia. The authorities had followed 19 consecutive deliveries of drugs starting May 2021, allowing them to identify "important middlemen" in the international drug trafficking transaction; also, a "substantial number" of carriers were also pinned down.

The drugs were delivered to Italy, and undercover agents handed it on to Italian traffickers, who were subsequently arrested in possession of the banned narcotics. "The purchasing organizations were different and did not know that the cocaine had already been seized, the producer in Colombia had already been paid and did not know about the seizure," Colonel Leonardo Erre of the Trieste Guardia di Finanza police told during a press conference on Tuesday. "And so thanks to front companies and undercover agents, we were able to run the operation, delivery after delivery for over a year until the end of May," he added.

The cartel was said to be formed by former paramilitaries who refused to participate in a 2006 peace process built to bring an end to Colombia's long civil war. It allegedly has around 4,000 members across 12 of Colombia's 32 regions.

This is a representational image. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

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