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Mexican Cartels Buddy Up With Italian Mobsters

They increasingly work together to ship cocaine to the lucrative European market.

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

06/21/12

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Mexican and Italian mobsters increasingly work together on the mass shipment of cocaine across the Atlantic to Europe, finds a 10-year investigation by Italian authorities. One major point of entry is the port of Palermo—notorious as a stronghold of the Sicilian mafia. The joint-venture between these far-flung "most wanted" crowds was allegedly spearheaded by Elio and Bruno Gerardi, two Monterray-based Italian brothers thought to be responsible for shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine in industrial ovens on behalf of Cosa Nostra. But it's not only the Sicilians who are linking up with Mexican connections. Mexico's Zetas cartel reportedly has strong ties to the ‘Nhdrangheta, a crime organization based in Calabria—Italy's toe. An astonishing 80% of Europe's cocaine arrived through Calabrian docks, Italian authorities estimated in 2004. With consumer demand rising, Europe is a highly lucrative market: a kilogram of coke is said to fetch $63,000 in Italy, compared with $28,000-$38,000 in New York. "The US is not the only game in town," says DEA spokesman Rusty Payne. "Europe is crazy now with coke." Experts say that the Gerardi investigation illustrates the global reach of the Mexican drug trade—the DEA has also found cartel activity in Africa, Asia and Australia. "The Mexican cartels have gone global," says Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Instead of working for the Colombians, the Colombians are now working for the Mexicans. The question is who will take over in Europe, in Russia." 

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