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Palermo drug bust nets 67

Mafia, Camorra and Spanish traffickers in joint venture

16 December, 16:21
Palermo drug bust nets 67 (ANSA) - Palermo, December 16 - Around 67 people were arrested in Palermo on Wednesday in a drug sweep targeting a consortium of Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Neapolitan Camorra and Spanish drug traffickers.

Hundreds of police were involved in the operation together with sniffer dogs, helicopters and army soldiers.

Investigators said the operation was made possible by the cooperation of a turncoat arrested last year in the nearby town of Bagheria with half a kilogram of pure cocaine.

The information he furnished helped police trace the cartel's shipping lines from Spain to Naples, and from there to a network of processing and distribution centers in the Sicilian capital.

With an estimated turnover of 60,000 euros per day, the drug ring had deep roots in Palermo slums, where it recruited bagmen and pushers from neighborhood teens, police said. ''This brilliant operation has exposed three powerful crime syndicates working together on a single joint venture,'' said opposition Democratic Party Senator, Giuseppe Lumia, a member of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission.

The chairman of the Senate constitutional affairs committee, Carlo Vizzini, also lauded the operation as a ''major blow'' to the Sicilian drug trade.

He underlined that ''the next step in fighting international organized crime is with more effective laws against money laundering,'' a few of which are currently before parliament.

Palermo prosecutor Teresa Principato called attention to the city's slums, which she said ''were beginning to resemble Brazilian favelas''.

''Drug use is endemic in many parts of the city, particularly among children,'' she said, adding that some of the drug peddlers and addicts singled out by police were as young as 13 years old.

Police captain Teo Luzi, a Palermo native, said ''these are kids with little or no education and difficult families, who've spent most of their lives on the streets''.

''For them, drugs provide a temporary escape from an ugly reality''.

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