> ANSA English > News

Ursino, Gambino clans worked 'hand in glove' in drug trade

'Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra in drug-traffic 'joint venture'

11 February, 17:21
Ursino, Gambino clans worked 'hand in glove' in drug trade (see related) (ANSA) - Rome, February 11 - Coordinated drug raids in New York and Italy resulted in a wave of arrests on both sides of the Atlantic on Tuesday, as law-enforcement officials in both countries targeted a mafia drug-trafficking route involving the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate and Mafia families in the United States.

Italian police detained 18 people during the raids, while the FBI reportedly arrested eight in New York in a two-year joint operation nicknamed New Bridge.

"This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the 'Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of (Sicily-based crime syndicate) Cosa Nostra", State prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York.

"Cosa Nostra purchased heroin from the Ursino family in Calabria, which was also seeking to launder 11 million euros in New York. They set up a joint venture, with input from a Mexican cartel, to import 500 kilos of cocaine a month from the US to Italy". New Bridge uncovered evidence that the Ursino clan in Calabria "worked hand in glove and in total synergy" with the Gambino family in New York to set up their international drug trafficking operation, Italian prosecutors said in their 18 arrest warrants.

The Gambinos brought their contacts within the South American drug cartels to the table while the Ursinos contributed their "organizational capacity and control of the territory".

Together, they set up a "ramified logistical network".

Prosecutors said the go-between was Franco Lupoi, 44, a reputed member of the Gambino family who was reportedly among those taken into custody in New York.

Speaking to reporters just after the blitz, Italian top cop Raffaele Grassi said that over the past six years, the 'Ndrangheta has muscled in on Cosa Nostra's former relationships with US mobsters and South American narcos.

"New Bridge has shown that the 'Ndrangheta has expanded far beyond its place of origin", said Grassi, who directs Italy's national anti-racketeering division. "Not only has it infiltrated northern Italy and Europe, it is carving ever bigger slices of the criminal pie. It is exporting heroin to America and importing cocaine into Italy, using the Gambino family's contacts with the South American cartels", he explained.

Key information used to launch the raids came from under-cover agents, the FBI said.

One, whose assumed Mob name was Jimmy, was said to have "dined regularly with bosses in Brooklyn".

One top Gambino operative was arrested at New York's Marriott Downtown Hotel.