Italian Operation Phoenix – seized drugs smuggled cigarettes

A total of 23 people are under investigation, in various capacities, for crimes of trafficking and dealing in narcotic or psychotropic substances, aggravated smuggling of foreign manufactured tobacco, as well as illegal possession and carrying of firearms.

The execution of the precautionary measures constitutes the epilogue of an articulated investigation activity (conventionally called “PHOENIX”) – carried out by crossing the data resulting from telephone and environmental wiretapping, telephone records, video recordings, satellite georeferences GPS, as well as from the observation, control and shadowing activities – which made it possible to reveal the existence of a criminal group, mainly active in Polignano a Mare (BA), dedicated to the commission of multiple criminal acts in the field of drugs (marijuana, hashish, heroin) and smuggling of foreign manufactured tobaccos from Eastern Europe.

During the investigations, GICO Bari carried out numerous operational checks which made it possible to seize over 1 ton of narcotic substances (hashish, marijuana, heroin), 2.2 tons of foreign smuggled tobacco products, € 30,000 in cash, 2 articulated vehicles and 3 motor vehicles, with the consequent reporting to the competent AG of 11 subjects, of which 6 arrested in the act of crime.

The sale of narcotic substances and smuggled cigarettes was mainly managed by a subject (CVM) residing in Polignano a Mare (BA), burdened by numerous precedents, including specific ones, whose investigative monitoring made it possible to identify the main channels, including international ones, procurement of the criminal group.

Different types of narcotic substances “treated” by the criminal group: from marijuana called “Amnesia” (mixed with methadone and / or heroin and so called because it is responsible for momentary memory loss), to hashish (in the form of cakes and ova) referred to as “Mercedes” or “Toyota”. Instead, the cigarettes illicitly marketed by the criminal group fell into the category of the so-called “cheap white”, that is, they were original tobaccos bearing trademarks registered in their respective countries of production (Russia, United Arab Emirates, China and Ukraine), which cannot, however , be sold in Italy or within the European Union, as they do not comply with the minimum safety parameters required by Community legislation.

Ingenious were the expedients that the suspects resorted to to conceal the presence of drugs and smuggled cigarettes: for example, a covering load of “fruit compote” was used to conceal the drug from Spain, while the smuggled cigarettes were transported from Eastern Europe hidden by a large quantity of pellets for boilers.

The investigations have also revealed how the suspects preferred to maintain contacts with each other, as well as with third party suppliers or customers, especially through direct meetings and only in a few cases through the use of “dedicated” telephone numbers and messaging applications snapshot.

Finally, it should be noted that the pellets – used as a covering load for the transport of the drug – for charitable purposes were donated to a religious brotherhood, while 3 seized vehicles were assigned to the local Italian Red Cross.