A feared Colombian cartel believed to be working with the mafia in a “Supergang” drug partnership is allegedly behind a record shipment of 4.3 tonnes of cocaine worth more than £200million seized in Italy.
The leader of Clan del Golfo was recently extradited to the US after a dramatic jungle attack branded as the most significant since Pablo Escobar was overthrown.
On Tuesday, Italian police announced they had seized 4.3 tonnes of cocaine worth a staggering €240million (more than £205million) in the northern city of Trieste.
Police described it as one of the largest drug seizures in Europe and said it was the end of an international probe that saw arrest warrants issued in six different countries.
A total of 38 people are being sought in Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia after a year-long investigation.
The cocaine was reportedly smuggled into Europe by the Clan del Golfo cartel, believed to be the world’s largest drug smuggler.
In addition to the drugs, the police also confiscated around 1.85 million euros in cash.
The anti-mafia police in Italy were also involved in the raid.
This follows fears that the mafia and Colombian drug cartels have increasingly expanded their links to streamline imports of cocaine into Europe.
It is the latest blow against the fearsome and powerful Clan del Golfo following the arrest and US extradition of its leader, Dario Antonio Usuga David, also known as Otoniel.
The cartel was formed by former paramilitaries who refused to take part in a 2006 peace process aimed at ending Colombia’s deadly decades-long civil war.
It reportedly has around 4,000 members spread across 12 of Colombia’s 32 regions.
In October last year, British and US intelligence services, in cooperation with their Colombian counterparts, located Usuga in his jungle hideout.
He was reportedly found half-naked hiding in the foliage by soldiers.
In addition to sending dozens of shipments of cocaine into the United States, Usuga is accused of murdering police officers, sexually abusing children and recruiting minors into his bloodthirsty cartel.
More than 500 Colombian special forces and soldiers entered the jungle, surrounded the drug lord’s hideout and bypassed eight separate security rings before apprehending the notorious criminal.
Another hard blow for the most important group among Colombia’s drug gangs
Italian anti-mafia police officers
Last November, Colombian authorities said they were determined to disband the Clan del Golfo, whose influence extends to 28 different countries around the world.
The Vice program Criminal Planet 2021 revealed the strong alleged links between the cartel and the Albanian mafia, which controls much of London’s cocaine market.
In 2019, the Channel 4 documentary Cocaine: Living with the Cartels took four British cocaine users to Colombia to meet low-ranking members of the Clan del Golfo.
The aim was to show them the violent origins of “where their cocaine comes from”.
On Tuesday, after the drug raid in Trieste, Italian anti-mafia police officers described the raid as “another hard blow to the most important group among Colombia’s drug gangs”.
They added that their investigation uncovered a “dense network” of links between South American cocaine producers and European buyers subordinate to organized crime groups across Italy, including Calabria’s notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
Investigators said police have traced 19 consecutive shipments of drugs since May last year, allowing them to identify “key intermediaries” in the global drug trafficking system and a “significant number” of carriers.
At the time of Usuga’s arrest last year, the Colombian president hailed it as the biggest crackdown on drug trafficking in 20 years.
Colombia remains the world’s top cocaine producer, with 1,228 tons being churned out in 2020, up 8 percent from 2019, the UN said.
Even the Covid pandemic, which virtually halted international travel, couldn’t stop the cartels from continuing to ship cocaine to Europe, often hidden aboard narco submarines or hidden in packs of face masks and fruit.
In addition to producing and smuggling vast amounts of cocaine, the Clan del Golfo is also involved in arms smuggling, illegal mining and racketeering.
But while Usuga’s capture was a major blow, local experts have warned it will not bring any major changes to the people living in the cartel strongholds.
Carlos Paez, a human rights defender in Uraba, where the 2,000-strong Clan del Golfo is based, told The Guardian: “Nothing is going to change; when one leader is captured, another takes power.”
When the notorious Colombian cocaine king Pablo Escobar was gunned down in 1993, cocaine production fell briefly but then reached record levels.
And after Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was extradited to the US after his capture in 2016, the country has seen a record number of homicides, while cocaine flow to Europe and the US has barely slowed.
In April of this year, Clan del Golfo fighters launched a deadly wave of violence in retaliation for Usuga’s extradition, bringing parts of the country to a standstill.
Clan del Golfo remains one of the largest employers in Colombia’s northern Cordoba region and often represents the government.
For four days, armed groups blocked key roads in the region, burned vehicles and cordoned off city centers.
“It exposes the reality that these areas have lived for many months, which is complete political and social control under the Gulf clan,” Elizabeth Dickinson of the Washington Post’s International Crisis Group said.
Locals fear Usuga’s successor may be even more violent, using terror and intimidation to cement her status as a strong leader.
“The US and Colombia have been at this war for 40 years,” author Toby Muse, who interviewed members of the Clan del Golfo, told iNews.
“First the Medellin Cartel, then the Cali Cartel, and then the Office of Envigado. And what did that lead to? More cocaine than ever.”
Many experts say coca farmers will continue to grow the crop until a better economic alternative emerges.
Instead, says Pedro Bustamante, an expert on Colombian drug trafficking at the University of Medellin, legalization and regulation are the only way to control the cocaine market.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5506658/drug-cartel-clan-del-golfo-mafia-cocaine-bust/ Within the ‘Supergang’ drug cartel, the Clan del Golfo, ‘who worked with the mafia in the record-breaking £200million disposal of 4.3 TONNES of cocaine’