An international cocaine smuggling ring with connections to Malta was busted by Italy’s finance police on Tuesday. The ring is run by the ‘Ndrangheta crime group, with over 400 officers carrying out dawn raids across the country wielding 57 arrest warrants following a four year investigation. The investigation was dubbed ‘Crypto’ and delved into investigating over 90 suspects from many known mafia families.
The cocaine was shifted in large quantities from Northern Europe and Spain to Italy, hidden in false bottoms of car boots. The drug was sometimes moved it on to Malta by boat. Captain Carmine Virno, whose team lead the investigation, revealed how the group communicated via a ‘complex code matching numbers to apparently random letters of the alphabet, without any spaces or punctuation.’
Families of the ring in Gioia Tauro and Rosarno in Southern Italy forged direct contacts with South American suppliers through Dominican Republic intermediaries. Another suspect living in Germany in a mob stronghold acted as both courier and another intermediary with dealers. Using disposable German sim cards, the traffickers communicated purely by text message in order to avoid identification through their voices.