by Lorenzo Bodrero

On Jan. 27, the Turin financial police issued 14 arrest warrants for members of “one of the largest drug-trafficking gangs in Italy,” authorities say.

Operation “White Sugar” targeted a transcontinental criminal operation that authorities say was headed by Giuseppe Modica and his son Gianluca, who owned property in the Dominican Republic and may have provided the group with contacts in South America.

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Image by Lorenzo Bodrero.

Police said the criminals purchased Colombian cocaine in the Dominican Republic and shipped it to Europe by plane.

Italian police seized 32 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$ 3.4 million. Authorities say the gang would buy the cocaine at US $6,800 and mark it up to US $54,000 per kilogram, or sell it for US$ 110 per gram on the streets.

Among those arrested was Gaudenzio Manfredda, a former financial planner at a bank, who police say opened fake bank accounts in order to launder the proceeds.

General Giuseppe Gerli of the Guardia di Finanza (financial police), said the gang “managed the entire supply chain, buying at the source, transporting the drug and organizing the distribution in the cities of Turin, Milan, and Rome.”

Gerli said “a skilled chemist was also part of the criminal group. His duty was to turn pure cocaine into cut cocaine and his skills would take him anywhere he was needed around the world.”

Police said that after the drugs were flown to Italy and France, they were  transported by car or train to their final destination.

Gerli said the gang used small airports to avoid detection and communicated via “Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp and by constantly changing SIM cards.”

Monday’s arrests end an investigation that started in the summer of 2010, when authorities searched a ship coming from Brazil and found 25 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the helm. Prosecutor Sandro Ausiello, who coordinated “White Sugar,” said that “the next step is to move against all the assets acquired illegally by the group’s criminals.”

This article was published by OCCRP on January 30, 2014.