Dominican police and Interpol capture three alleged Italian mob bosses

Dominican police and Interpol capture three alleged Italian mob bosses

By Dialogo
May 22, 2014

Security forces in the Dominican Republic have captured three alleged Italian organized crime members, including a fugitive leader of Italy's powerful 'Ndrangheta mafia.

Security forces captured Domenico Magnoli, 63, according to a May 17 press release from the Dominican Republic National Police. Police captured Magnoli in the university zone of the National District. Police captured Magnoli as he drove a Jeep Explorer.

Magnoli is wanted in Italy for bank fraud and related crimes.

Dominican police captured Raul Conforti on May 14 in the Santiago neighborhood, according to National Police press release. The arrest followed an intensive investigation which included the gathering and use of intelligence, the press release stated.

Conforti is wanted in Italy for alleged organized crime activity.

Mafia leader captured

Security forces captured Nicola Pignatelli, head of the Mazzaferro Ursino Aquino branch of the 'Ndrangheta, on April 27 at a bar in the resort town of Juan Dolio, about 30 kilometers east of capital Santo Domingo, according to authorities.

The capture of Pignatelli capped a month-long investigation by the Dominican National Police, Interpol, and Italian authorities, according to published reports.

Pignatelli was allegedly in the Dominican Republic to open a new route for trafficking of cocaine from Central and South America to Europe, authorities said. He was being held in Santo Domingo pending deportation to Italy. Pignatelli was on Italy’s list of that country’s 100 most dangerous fugitives. He has been on the run from Italian authorities since 2011. An Italian judge had sentenced

Pignatelli to 13 years in prison for international drug trafficking and other crimes he allegedly committed or directed on behalf of the 'Ndrangheta.

A powerful organized crime group

The 'Ndrangheta, based in the Calabria region of southern Italy, is considered by many authorities and security analysts to be one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. It controls an estimated 80 percent of all the cocaine entering Europe. The 'Ndrangheta’s revenues from drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion are estimated at $72 billion per year. The 'Ndrangheta is reported to be operating in 30 countries.

The 'Ndrangheta has reportedly established strong ties with the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, and has long had connections with Colombian drug cartels.

In the spring of 2013, Colombian authorities arrested two high-level members of the 'Ndrangheta, which has been operating in Colombia since at least 2000. And in July 2013, Colombian police arrested another 'Ndrangheta-connected mobster, Roberto Pannunzi, also known as “Bebe,” who had established close ties with Colombian drug cartels.

Drug trafficking route

In 2010, Pannunzi escaped from an Italian prison, where he was serving a 16-year prison sentence. Authorities suspected he was shipping as much as two tons of cocaine through Italy and on a monthly basis. Authorities later captured Pannunzi and imprisoned him. During the investigation of Pignatelli’s activities in the Dominican Republic, authorities learned he had been in contact with the imprisoned Pannunzi.

Pignatelli allegedly intended to use Pannunzi’s Colombian cartel connections to establish a new drug smuggling route through the Dominican Republic to Europe.

The Dominican Republic is a strategically important location for drug trafficking, often serving as a transit point for cocaine heading to both the United States and Europe. In September, 2013, Dominican authorities discovered an underground cocaine processing lab allegedly operated by two Colombia nationals, indicating that the Dominican Republic may increasingly also be used as a cocaine processing location.

The importance of international cooperation

International cooperation is becoming “increasing important and necessary” when it comes to fighting drug trafficking and other transnational criminal enterprises in the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region, said Guillermo Garduño , a security analyst at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM ) in Mexico City.

The captures of Pignatelli, Magnoli and Conforti are important security successes for Dominican authorities, Garduño said. Nonetheless, authorities in the region must remain vigilant regarding the activities of Italian mafia operatives and other international drug traffickers.

“Undoubtedly, the Calabrian mafia already has a substitute to try to continue the expansion of its criminal operations,” Garduño said. Transnational criminal organizations, like the 'Ndrangheta, often traffic not just drugs, but illegal weapons.

Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.

I like it In july I was in the juan dolio a resort area of the Dominican republic. I noticed lots of criminal activity and mafia activity in that area. That whole southern part of the island from the capital of santo domingo to san pedro and la romana is loaded with armed criminals roaming the streets, prostitution and drugs. Tourists be aware...