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Spanish police return Italian mafia fugitive to Italy after three years on the run
Photo by Gianluca CHININEA / AFP
AFP/The Local
ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com
@mcpben
15 May 2021
10:56 CEST

A major Italian mafia fugitive who controlled cocaine routes within Europe has been returned by authorities to Rome from Spain, police said on Saturday.
Giuseppe Romeo, 35, arrived at Fiumicino Airport under escort from Barcelona Friday night, following his March 11th arrest on a European arrest warrant after three years on the run, police said in a statement.
Romeo is accused of being a top member of an international drug network run by three ‘Ndrangheta clans based in the Reggio Calabria area of the southern Italian region of Calabria.
The ‘Ndrangheta is Italy’s most powerful mafia group, involved in nearly all areas of criminal activity beyond drug trafficking and extortion, whose operations extend throughout Europe and beyond.
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According to an Italian police statement, Romeo, who lived in Germany, “had the role of promoter, organiser and financier of trafficking of cocaine in Europe.”
“He shuttled between between Calabria, Lombardy and north-western Europe to make agreements with suppliers and with some intermediaries in Belgium, Holland and Germany.”
In 2018, he managed to escape the “European Ndrangheta Connection” raid carried out by Italian, German, Dutch and Belgian authorities that targeted about 90 people suspected of involvement in the cross-border drug and money laundering ring.
In November, Romeo was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison for charges related to international drug trafficking, mafia association, drug possession, and money laundering.
It’s not the first time Spanish police have seized members of the infamous mafia ring.
Spanish authorities also arrested a top ‘Ndrangheta mafia boss in Barcelona in March, identifying him as one of Italy’s most dangerous wanted fugitives.
The latest capture follows the recent police apprehension of a further mafia ‘Ndrangheta clan member in the Caribbean last month, after appearing on YouTube cooking videos.
Based in Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy’s boot, ‘Ndrangheta is believed to be one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates due to its control of most of the cocaine entering Europe.
It has extended its reach across all parts of the world, and has long overtaken Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, becoming Italy’s biggest mafia organisation.
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