Sabato, 22 Settembre 2018

'Narco Prince' set for Sardinian lockdown


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, July 9 - Italy's 'narco prince', the world's
biggest cocaine trafficker and a Scarlet Pimpernel of organised
crime who eluded justice and made two prison breaks until a
spectacular arrest in Colombia at the weekend, is set to be
locked down in one of the country's highest-security jails, on
the island of Sardinia.
"We aim to make sure Roberto Pannunzi won't get out again,"
said Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri as she unveiled the
world's top drugs broker's likely lockup, a spanking new
facility in the Bancali district of the central Sardinian city
of Sassari.
"Bancali will be run according to the (tough anti-mafia)
prison regime of 41-bis, which has worked well for generations
of mafiosi," said Cancellieri, a former prefect of several rough
cities and the interior minister in the previous government of
Mario Monti.
Cancellieri denied reports that the ex-prison island of
Asinara, a fastness that has held political and other prisoners
since Emperor Augustus exiled his ex-favourite Postumus there,
would be reopened especially for Pannunzi.
"There really isn't any need for that, but of course we
will take on board any suggestions from the (Sardinian) regional
government, should they wish to make any".
Years of sending mafia chieftains to Sardinia, which mainly
lives off tourism, have sparked resistance on the island west of
the central Italian mainland.
On Tuesday an MP in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People
of Freedom (PdL) Party, Mauro Pili, reiterated assertions that
the jewel of the Mediterranean was "better off without these
mafiosi, who are lumped together and can conspire better because
of it".
Cancellieri rejected the suggestion from the PdL MP, saying
that "the 41-bis mandate solitary confinement and severely
restricts family visits, as mandated by parliament, and we have
seen that it works".
Pannunzi aka Bebe' (Baby), Europe's most-wanted drugs
trafficker whose arrest made headlines worldwide Saturday, is
said to have links to all Italy's crime syndicates including
Cosa Nostra in Sicily, for whom he once peddled heroin from
But the half-Roman, half-Calabrian kingpin married into a
Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia family and began to work almost
exclusively with the Calabrian Mob, helping it become Italy's
richest and most dangerous organised-crime group.
Pannunzi helped set up 'Ndrangheta drug routes from South
America to Europe through Canada, one of the countries where the
Calabrian gangs, once poor relations to their better-known
Sicilian cousins, began to spawn a sprawling worldwide network
including Germany, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe and
According to anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano of Gomorrah
fame, Pannunzi was so highly regarded by the Medellin cartels
that his word alone was enough to have a Cosa Nostra hostage
released by Pablo Escobar, to whom he has been compared, when a
massive drugs deal went belly-up in the late 1980s.
"But unlike Escobar, who built up a huge paramilitary
defence organisation and was eventually brought down by that
confrontational approach, Pannunzi remained fundamentally a
down-to-earth, seemingly legitimate businessman, someone whose
word was taken as surety across the global crime networks,"
Saviano wrote in Italian daily La Repubblica this week.
Most of the cocaine he ordered entered Europe through the
vast Calabrian container port of Gioia Tauro, where 'Ndrangheta
operates thanks to massive bribes despite regular police
Pannunzi was captured in Bogotà on Friday night and
swiftly expelled to Italy where he was arrested by Italian
It was the third time Pannunzi has been arrested following
a 1994 prison stay and a 2004 imprisonment for a 16-year
sentence, from which he escaped while being treated for a heart
ailment in a Rome clinic in 2010.
When he was first arrested in Medellin in 1994, Pannunzi
offered agents a million dollars in cash to let him go.
Prosecutors have urged the government to make sure that
Pannunzi doesn't slip through their fingers again.
"He belongs in a high-security prison, the tightest there
is," said anti-'Ndrangheta prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who like
Saviano has been living in police protection from the Mob for
many years.
"We're only now beginning to make progress against
'Ndrangheta's control of their heartlands and their
entrepreneurial empire elsewhere," Gratteri said.
"I'm hoping Pannunzi might turn state's evidence and give
us a much-needed boost in the fight," he added.
According to a recent report from the Eurispes research
agency, annual drugs profits for 'Ndrangheta are now the
equivalent of 3% of Italian GDP.
'Ndrangheta (from a Greek word meaning 'heroism' or
'virtue') once lived in the twin shadow of Cosa Nostra and the
Camorra in Naples.
While those two syndicates, notably the Sicilians, were
growing fat on the transatlantic heroin trade through operations
like the infamous 'French connection', 'Ndrangheta was only just
emerging from its traditional stock-in-trade of kidnappings in
the Calabrian highlands.
It has since become a highly sophisticated global network,
Italian officials say.
As well as being the richest, 'Ndrangheta is also regarded
as the most impenetrable of Italy's mafias, with its close-knit
family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian mafia in its
ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into State

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