Italian mafia capo arrested in Argentina
By Dialogo October 07, 2014
The Argentine National Gendarmerie (GNA) has arrested an alleged high-level leader of the powerful Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia, which has extensive connections in Latin America.
Pantaleone Mancuso, 52 - known as “The Engineer” - was arrested August 29 in the Argentine border city of Puerto Iguazu as he attempted to cross into the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu aboard a tourist bus. At the crossing, officers of the Argentine National Directorate of Migration (DNM) noted irregularities in Mancuso’s papers, which identified him as an Argentine named Luca Bortola. Upon searching him, GNA officers found (US) $130,000 in cash.
A fingerprint check confirmed his true identity as Pantaleone Mancuso, who was the target of an international arrest warrant. An Argentine judge ordered Mancuso held until Italian officials commence extradition proceedings.
He had been on the run for more than a year after Italian prosecutors charged him with organized crime activities, as well as the 2008 attempted murders of his aunt and cousin in a bloody family dispute. It’s unclear how long Mancuso had been in Argentina, or whether he was simply hiding out in that country or trying to establish new organized crime connections.
Mancuso is allegedly a top capo in the powerful Mancuso clan of the 'Ndrangheta, which is based in the Calabria region of southern Italy. The ‘Ndrangheta is considered one of the world’s most powerful criminal organizations, controlling an estimated 80 percent of all the cocaine entering Europe, according to a 2013 report by Fox News Latino. Its revenues from drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion and other crimes are estimated at up to $50 billion per year. And it has reportedly established ties with the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, as well as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group and other Colombian drug trafficking cartels.
The arrest highlights the continued presence in Latin America of the 'Ndrangheta – and it’s only the latest in a number of recent captures of the organization’s capos in Latin America.
In June, 2014 Colombian security forces detained Domenico Trimboli, who is also known as "Pasquale," on drug trafficking charges. Police said Trimboli is a high-level member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia who maintained ties with both Colombian and Spanish drug traffickers and organized the trafficking of drugs to Italy and other parts of Western Europe.
That same month, police in Lima, Perú arrested Pasquale Bifulco, also known as "Spaghetti," an Italian national accused of being a major cocaine trafficker for the ‘Ndrangheta. He allegedly conspired to move large amounts of cocaine from Perú and Brazil to Europe via cargo ships.
And in April, 2014 police in the Dominican Republic arrested Nicola Pignatelli, head of the Mazzaferro Ursino Aquino branch of the 'Ndrangheta, in the resort town of Juan Dolio, about 30 kilometers east of capital Santo Domingo. Dominican officials said Pignatelli, a fugitive who had been sentenced in Italy in 2011 to 13 years in prison for drug trafficking, was in the Dominican Republic to open a new route for trafficking of cocaine from Central and South America to Europe.