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Homeland Security

Washington File

05 June 2003

U.S. Announces Seizure of Colombian-Linked Drug Shipment in Rome

(DEA says cocaine transported via Venezuela to Europe) (430)
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Over 100 kilograms of cocaine transported by an
organization of Colombian and Italian nationals have been seized at
Rome's Fiumicino Airport, says the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA).
In a June 4 statement, the DEA said the organization used couriers to
transport cocaine through Caracas, Venezuela, to Spain and Italy. This
was the second major seizure at Fiumicino Airport that was linked to
the trafficking group. In January, an Italian national was arrested
for smuggling 24 kilograms of cocaine.
The ongoing investigation of the drug group has resulted in the
arrests of four Italian nationals and additional arrests are expected,
said the DEA. The investigation is being conducted by the DEA office
in Rome, with help from DEA's Caracas office and Venezuelan law
enforcement authorities.
The United States lists both Colombia and Venezuela as among the
world's major drug-transit countries.
The U.S. State Department, in its 2002 International Narcotics Control
Strategy Report, said cocaine -- destined for Italian and other
European consumption -- originates with Colombian and (more recently)
Mexican criminal groups. Heroin and cocaine are smuggled into Italy
via boat and overland via truck and privately-owned vehicle. In
smaller quantities, the drugs are transported via (primarily Nigerian
and Colombian) couriers or air express parcels, the report said.
The report said that three State Department-designated terrorist
groups in Colombia -- known by the Spanish acronyms FARC, ELN, and AUC
-- control much of Colombia's narcotics production and distribution,
reaping enormous profits. However, the report also said that the
United States remains committed to supporting the Colombian
government's unified campaign against drug trafficking and designated
foreign terrorist organizations.
The State Department report cited several major drug busts in Italy in
2002 that had a South American connection. In February, 279 kilograms
of cocaine packaged in a containerized shipment were seized at the
port of Naples, while in April, 25 kilograms of cocaine were seized by
Italian customs agents. The cocaine arrived in Italy via two pieces of
luggage from Caracas, Venezuela, via France.
Fishing vessels transport large quantities of narcotics from Colombia
to Mexico and other countries, with the final destination being the
United States and Europe, the report said, adding that the vessels are
often loaded and off-loaded at sea by "go-fast" boats operating from
secluded coastal areas. Fishing vessels are considered well-suited for
smuggling operations, as they have the ability to remain at sea for
long periods, transit vast distances, draw minimal attention, and hide
among legitimate fishing boats.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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