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News Release [printer friendly page]
January 28, 2004

Calabrian Mafia Dismantled in Operation "Decollo" (Take-Off)
Law Enforcement Officials from Four Continents Join Forces
to Bring Down Major Cocaine Trafficking Organization

Photo of press event including representatives from Italy, U.S., Colombia, Australia, France and Spain. (From Left to Right: RD Fiano 2nd from left, 6th from left is Giuseppe Pisano, Italian Minister of Justice)
Photo of press event including representatives from Italy, U.S., Colombia, Australia, France and Spain. (1st from left is Regional Director Fiano; 4th from left is Pier Luigi Vigna, the chief Italian Prosecutor in the Antimafia Prosecutors Office; and 5th from left is Giuseppe Pisanu, the Italian Minister of Interior.)

JAN 28—DEA Rome, DEA Cartagena, the Italian Arma dei Carabinieri, the Colombian National Police, the Venezuelan National Police, the Australian National Police, the Spanish National Police, the Spanish Guardia Civil and the French Judicial Police began the arrest phase of Operation "Decollo" which targeted an international drug trafficking organization responsible for organizing multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia and Venezuela to Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany and Australia. To date, in excess of three tons of cocaine linked directly to this organization have been seized.

On January 28, 2004 at approximately 4:00 AM, waves of Carabineri throughout Italy and international law enforcement agents in six countries began making arrests based on a four year long investigation of an international narcotics trafficking organization operating between South America and Europe. To date, seventy-eight (78) individuals were arrested in Italy, one (1) in Spain and fifteen (15) in Colombia including the head of this organization identified as Santo Scipione.

According to DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy, "Operation Decollo demonstrates the success law enforcement can have when we form international partnerships to attack drug trafficking organizations whose criminal activities know no boundaries. Law enforcement authorities from four continents joined forces to bring down a major cocaine trafficking organization and cripple its financial infrastructure. DEA applauds the Carabinieri; the Colombian, Venezuelan, Australian and Spanish National Police; the Spanish Guardia Civil and the French Judicial Police for bringing this complex organization to justice."

The Carabineri identified Scipione as a ranking member of the N'Drangheta Italian organized crime group based in Calabria, Italy. Scipione has been residing in Monteria, Colombia for several years and coordinated cocaine shipments with Italian national Natale Scali who had been identified as the operational head of the N'Drangheta in Italy. As the investigation continues additional arrests are expected.

During the arrest phase, this investigation resulted in the identification of three containers that recently arrived at the port of Gioia Tauro, Italy from South America. A partial search of the containers today resulted in the seizure of 250 kilograms of cocaine that were secreted within marble. Italian authorities continue to check marble blocks found inside the containers.

In addition, residences, businesses, property and vehicles valued at approximately $23 million have been identified and are in the process of being seized. This is the result of international cooperation at its best by seven different countries that not only targeted international drug traffickers but focused on the financial infrastructure of the organization.

According to the Carabineri, this investigation has successfully dismantled a Calabrian mafia organization responsible for importing multi-ton quantities of cocaine for distribution in Italy and elsewhere in Europe and Australia.

For additional information, please contact DEA Public Affairs, 202-307-7977. You may also wish to visit www.dea.gov for general information.

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