Authorities in Bogota have arrested a key player in drug trafficking between Colombian drug cartels and the European market. The alleged drug lord hails from the powerful Italian mafia clan, 'Ndrangheta.
Officials described the apprehension of Roberto Pannunzi as a major victory, according to the Colombian Interior Ministry early Saturday. Special forces working in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made the arrest in Colombia's capital city overnight.
"There were four international arrest warrants for drug smuggling and criminal association with the mafia for this international drug lord. Italy has issued a red notice alert for him," the ministry said in a statement.
Authorities believe Pannunzi is "chief of the 'Ndrangheta criminal organization." The group has its origins in the region of Calabria, the "toe" of Italy, but has a notable presence in several European countries, including Germany.
It was not immediately clear how long the suspect had been running from authorities.
"When he was captured, Pannunzi identified himself with a fake Venezuelan identification card bearing the name Silvano Martino," the statement said.
The arrest came less than three months after Colombian police arrested another prominent 'Ndrangheta player, Domenico Trimboli. Officials believe Trimboli had acted as the middleman in the South American-European cocaine trade, negotiating with Colombia's drug cartels on behalf of southern Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia.
In 2007, the 'Ndrangheta made German headlines when a group of its men shot dead six people in an Italian eatery in the northwest city of Duisburg. The "Duisburg massacre" resulted in life sentences for eight of the accused.
The Calabrian mafia - which authorities say deal in illegal weapons and gambling, among other criminal activities - reportedly reaps billions of euros annually from its role as one of Europe's most powerful drug traffickers and major players in the European cocaine market.
kms/hc (AFP, dpa)