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Country reports: Italy.

A. Introduction

Italy remains an important European transit country for illegal drugs, owing to its location and powerful domestic criminal organizations. Southwest Asian heroin arrives in Italy from the Middle East and the Balkans, while cocaine reaches Italy directly from South America or through Spain and other countries . According to UNODC, Italy is Europe's second largest consumer of opiates (behind the U.K.) and third largest consumer of cocaine (behind the U.K. and Spain). Synthetic drugs (such as ecstasy), hashish and marijuana are also illicit drugs of concern for the Italian government. Italian and Italy-based foreign organized crime groups are heavily involved in international drug trafficking.

A large percentage of all heroin seized in Italy is shipped from Turkey through an overland route by way of Balkan countries. Balkan heroin traffickers work with Italian criminal organizations as trans porters and suppliers of drugs. Heroin is smuggled into Italy via automobiles, ferryboats and commercial cargo. Italian law enforcement agencies maintain liaison offices in Albania, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to assist foreign counterparts in interdicting narcotics originating from Afghanistan, which are destined for Italy.

Almost all cocaine found in Italy originates from Colombian and other South American criminal groups and is distributed in Italy by Calabria and Campania-based organized crime groups. Multi-hundred kilogram shipments enter Italy via seaports concealed in commercial cargo, as well as by private maritime vessels (such as sailboats). Although the traditional Atlantic trafficking route is still in use, stepped-up international scrutiny and cooperation are forcing traffickers to use alternative avenues. During 20092010, Italian drug investigations have identified increased activity by Serbian criminal groups involved in the importation of large amounts of cocaine. In 2010, bilateral investigations in Italy revealed South American cocaine trafficking groups are using Italy as a transit point for the repatriation of drug proceeds, via bulk currency shipments, to Colombia and Mexico.

Italian officials have detected traffickers using transit ports in West Africa where drugs are off-loaded to smaller fishing vessels that ultimately reach Spain and other Mediterranean destinations. Cocaine shipments off-loaded in Spain, the Netherlands and the Balkans are eventually transported to Italy and other European countries by land vehicles. Italian organized crime groups have representatives based in Spain who are responsible for purchasing bulk quantities of cocaine for overland transportation to Italian drug markets. Smaller amounts of cocaine (usually concealed in luggage) enter Italy via airline couriers traveling from South America. Express parcels with concealed cocaine are also dispatched to Italy from South America.

Ecstasy found in Italy primarily originates in the Netherlands and is usually smuggled into the country by couriers using commercial airlines, trains or land vehicles. The couriers originating in Amsterdam often conceal thousands of ecstasy tablets in luggage and travel by train or airline to Italy. The EU's open borders make this journey somewhat less risky. No ecstasy or amphetamine laboratories have been discovered in Italy.

Hashish comes predominately from Morocco through Spain, entering the Iberian Peninsula (and the rest of Europe) via sea access points using speed boats and concealed in commercial cargo shipments crossing the Straits of Gibraltar on ferryboats. As with cocaine, larger hashish shipments are smuggled into Spain and eventually transported to Italy by vehicle. Hashish is also smuggled into Italy on fishing and pleasure boats from Lebanon. Marijuana cultivation does occur in Italy, but it is generally small-scale and is for local consumption. Italy is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

The Government of Italy (GOI) is committed to the fight against drug trafficking domestically and internationally. The Berlusconi government continues Italy's strong counternarcotics stand with capable Italian law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement officials focus their efforts on heroin, cocaine , synthetic drugs, hashish and marijuana. Although Italy produces some precursor chemicals, they are well controlled in accordance with international norms and are not known to have been diverted to any significant extent.

Italy continues to combat narcotics aggressively. Notwithstanding important tactical achievements, strategic success in significantly limiting Italy's role as a transit country remains elusive. In 2006, Italy adopted a tough new drug law that eliminates distinctions between hard and soft drugs, increases penalties for those convicted of trafficking and establishes administrative penalties for lesser offenses. All forms of possession and trafficking are illegal, but punishment depends on the severity of the infraction. Stiff penalties for those convicted of trafficking or possessing drugs include jail sentences from six to 20 years and fines of over $300,000. The law provides alternatives to jail time for minor infractions, including drug therapy, community service hours, and house arrest.

In August 2010, the GOI amended the existing legislation regarding undercover law enforcement operations targeting serious criminal activity. A key component of the amendment was the authorization for expanded undercover activities in furtherance of drug trafficking and money laundering investigations. It is expected that this new legislation will enhance the capacity of Italian law enforcement entities to infiltrate and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

After contributing about $1.3 million in 2009 to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime programs, Italy contributed nearly $1.6 million in 2010. Italy has supported key U.S. objectives at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), and chairs the Dublin Group of countries coordinating narcotics sector assistance projects for Central Asia.

Italy is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Italy is a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in October 2009. Italy has bilateral extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties with the U. S. In February 2010, a U. S.-Italy protocol implementing the 2003 U. S.-EU Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements entered into force.

On October 29, 2010, the Italian government approved an Anti-Narcotics National Action Plan 2010-2013 (Piano di Azione Nazionale Antidroga). It is based on recommendations from the UN and the EU and by the EU Drug Action Plan 2009-2012. It also draws from the conclusions of the 5th National Conference on Anti-Drug Policies that took place in Trieste March 12-14, 2009.

The new national drug plan seeks to improve coordination of national level policies that are implemented by regional governments, and provide an integrated approach among the different Italian stakeholders as well as within the EU, the UN, and the international community. The National Action Plan identifies and details areas for intervention for which the Government has authorized 26 million Euros. It is unclear whether the funds are actually available for appropriation. The plan also calls on Italian regions to provide their own funding to accomplish the following goals: reduce demand; reduce availability; provide assistance and treatment; provide rehabilitation and social reinsertion programs; improve monitoring and provide periodic reviews; amend and enhance current laws to adapt them to the current situation.

The anti-narcotics plan states that international cooperation is necessary because "the global nature of the drug problem requires regional, national, European, and transnational approaches." The plan also focuses on cooperation beyond Europe because of the links between narcotics and both worldwide organized crime and terrorism. The plan particularly highlights the need for cooperation with African partners, stating: "We must offer special cooperation to those African countries affected by the problem of drugs not only as consumer countries, but as countries of transit and storage of large quantities of substances from producer countries headed for European consumer markets." The plan calls for the government to promote bilateral agreements between Italy's police forces and those of other countries to confront the trafficking of narcotics drugs, psychotropic substances, and their precursors; organize anti-drug training programs with the police of countries in West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America; cooperate with such regional systems as the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center (CARICC) to organize training.

2. Supply Reduction

The fight against drugs is a major priority for the National Police, Carabinieri, and Guardia di Finanza (GdF) counternarcotics units. The Italian Central Directorate for Anti-Drug Services (DCSA) coordinates the counternarcotics efforts of the three national police services and directs liaison activities with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other foreign law enforcement agencies. DCSA has 20 drug liaison officers in 19 countries (including the U.S.) that focus on major traffickers and their organizations. In 2006, DCSA stationed liaison officers in Tehran, Iran and Tashkent, Uzbekistan; in 2007 they added liaison officers in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad, Pakistan. The other liaison officers are based in Miami, Florida (co-located with the DEA Miami Field Division); Bogota, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; Lima, Peru; La Paz, Bolivia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Brasilia, Brazil; Dakar, Senegal; Rabat, Morocco; Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey; Beirut, Lebanon; Bangkok, Thailand; Madrid, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Budapest, Hungary, and Moscow, Russia.

Investigations of international narcotics organizations often overlap with the investigations of Italy's traditional organized crime groups (e.g., the Sicilian Mafia, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, and the Naples-based Camorra). Additional narcotics trafficking groups include Moroccan, Tunisian, Nigerian, Senegalese, Albanian, and other Balkan organized crime groups responsible for smuggling drugs into Italy. In 2009, Italian drug investigations revealed that Serbian groups have begun importing large quantities of cocaine (100-kilogram shipments or greater) into Italy. Colombian, Dominican, and other Latin American trafficking groups are also involved in the importation of cocaine. Italian law enforcement officials employ the same narcotics investigation techniques used by other western countries. Adequate financial resources, money laundering laws, and asset seizure/forfeiture laws help ensure the effectiveness of these efforts.

During 2009, Italian authorities seized 4078 kilograms of cocaine; 1149 kilograms of heroin; 19,474 kilograms of hashish; 7483 kilograms of marijuana; 119,182 marijuana plants; and 66,253 doses of synthetic drugs. The single largest drug seizures during the same period were: June 2009--400 kilograms of cocaine in Padua; April 2009--180 kilograms of heroin in Milan; May 2009--2,010 kilograms of hashish in Naples; November 2009-1300 kilograms of marijuana in Francica and January 2009--28,700 tablets of ecstasy in Turin. Also during this period, 29,529 individuals were arrested in Italy on drug-related charges, 3054 of which were arrested for more serious drug trafficking/conspiracy violations. Sixty-five (65) percent of those arrested were Italian nationals, while the remaining 35 percent of the arrestees were primarily Moroccan, Tunisian, Albanian, and Nigerian nationals.

During the first 6 months of 2010, Italian law enforcement agencies have seized 1824 kilograms of cocaine; 537 kilograms of heroin; 6673 kilograms of hashish; 2865 kilograms of marijuana; 20,474 marijuana plants; and 66,228 doses of synthetic drugs. Also within this time frame, 14,749 individuals were arrested for illicit drug violations (33% of them were foreign nationals), with 1847 of the defendants being charged with more serious drug conspiracy violations.

In June 2009, the DEA Rome country office coordinated multilateral assistance with the Italian Guardia di Finanza in an investigation into a Rome-based Italian organized crime group responsible for the importation of significant quantities of cocaine into Europe utilizing Colombian cocaine brokers resident in Europe with sources of cocaine supply in Colombia and Venezuela. This investigative effort resulted in the maritime seizure of approximately 300 kilograms of cocaine and utilized the modern and sophisticated air and sea assets available to the Guardia di Finanza.

Also in 2009, Italian law enforcement agencies concluded several long-term criminal investigations targeting drug trafficking organizations operating throughout the country. Operation Red Man (Operazione Uomo Rosso) began in 2007 and targeted two West African criminal groups responsible for transporting cocaine and heroin from the Netherlands to Italy. The investigation linked the African groups to members of rival Italian Camorra (Naples-based) organized crime families and resulted in the arrest of 74 individuals and the seizure of cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Operation Como Hills (Operazione Colline Comasche) began in 2006 and targeted a large network of Albanian nationals operating in northern Italy and Tuscany. This organization was responsible for importing cocaine into Italy from the Netherlands and drug distribution throughout Europe. The investigation resulted in the seizure of cocaine and heroin and the arrest of 174 people. In June 2009, Italian police officials in Trento and Genoa concluded Operation Sutka (Operazione Sutka) with the arrest of 49 members of a predominately ethnic Romanian crime group importing cocaine from Spain. Over the course of this two-year investigation, Italian law enforcement seized 36 kilograms of cocaine and 60 kilograms of marijuana.

The DEA Rome country office, in conjunction with Italian law enforcement officials and numerous other DEA domestic and foreign offices, participated in a 2-year multinational investigation--dubbed "Operation Reckoning"--which targeted a significant element of the Mexican based Gulf Cartel responsible for importing multi-ton quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico for distribution in the U.S. and elsewhere, including Italy. The joint DEA and Italian Carabinieri investigation targeted 'Ndrangheta organized crime cells operating between Calabria, Italy and New York City as part of the overall operation. In mid-September 2008, ten other subjects were arrested in Italy and six were arrested in New York. This investigation has increased law enforcement attention and focus on drug trafficking links between Italy and Mexico.

In 2008, the DEA Rome country office and the Italian National Police (INP) initiated a sophisticated drug trafficking and money laundering investigation targeting Colombian nationals operating in Italy. The investigation was linked to Colombian money laundering cells in the United States. Based upon intelligence sharing with the INP, in May 2010, the INP seized 225 kilograms of cocaine aboard a commercial airline flight originating from the Dominican Republic. As a result, the INP arrested six individuals on money laundering and drug charges and the Italian prosecutor indicted an additional 19 individuals on related charges. The Italian investigation has also resulted in the seizure of over $13 million in trafficker-owned assets.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment

GOI promotes drug prevention programs using abstinence messages and treatment aimed at the full rehabilitation of drug addicts. The Italian Ministry of Health funds 533 public health offices that operate at the regional level; the government identified 1108 private centers of which 65 percent are residential, 19 percent semi-residential facilities, and 16 percent walk-in facilities. Of about 500,000 estimated drug addicts, about 393,000 are eligible for treatment in Italy, and 161,000 receive services at public agencies. About 69 percent of the total currently receiving government-sponsored treatment used heroin. Others either are not receiving treatment or arrange for treatment privately. The government continues to promote more responsible use of methadone at the public treatment facilities. Regional and local governments spent about 30 million Euro for drug prevention programs and a total of 20 million Euro were spent for social and professional rehabilitation.

4. Corruption

As a matter of government policy, Italy does not encourage or facilitate the illicit distribution of narcotics or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. The USG has no information that any senior official of the Government of Italy engages in, encourages, or facilitates the illicit production or distribution of such drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Corruption exists in Italy although in the area of counternarcotics it rarely rises to the national level and it does not compromise investigations. When a corrupt law enforcement officer is discovered, authorities take appropriate action.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

Within the European Union, DCSA actively takes part in the monthly meeting of the Horizontal Drug Group, which is in charge of examining--at the interdisciplinary level--the proposals and projects forwarded by Member States or community bodies on prevention and counter-strategies in the fie ld of drug abuse and drug trafficking, as well as legislative measures and regulations resulting from the European Drug Strategy and Action Plan. In 2009, under the Czech and Swedish Presidencies, the DCSA represented the GOI on several issues; (a) the first implementation of the 4-year European Drug Action Plan for 2009-2012, (b) the adoption of the Stockholm Program, (c) the submission of a feasibility study called the Africa Platform--aimed at improving international cooperation in West Africa relative to the current drug threat in this region, and (d) the update of the EU / Central Asia Drug Action Plan. The DCSA also regularly participates in the Dublin Group, which provides assistance in the coordination of regional cooperation strategies for drug producing and transit countries. Italy chairs the Mini-Dublin Group for Central Asia. During 2009-2010, DCSA continued to cooperate at the operational level within multilateral projects involving EU law enforcement authorities such as EUROPOL and COSPOL.

The U.S. and Italy continue to enjoy exemplary counternarcotics cooperation. At the April 2010 International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Director of DCSA met with DEA's Acting Administrator in furtherance of bilateral cooperation and operations. September 2010, the DCSA Director visited the DEA offices in Miami and New York, as well as DEA Headquarters for further consultation with DEA's Acting Administrator regarding enhanced information-sharing initiatives. DEA and DCSA personnel continue to conduct intelligence-sharing and coordinate joint criminal investigations on a daily basis. Based on the October 1997 International Conference on Multilateral Reporting in Lisbon, Portugal, the DEA Headquarters Chemical Section and DCSA continue to exchange pre-shipment notifications for dual-use drug precursor chemicals. [Note: Italy has not been identified as a significant international producer or distributor of methamphetamine precursor chemicals.]

In June 2008, the Italian 'Ndrangheta Organized Crime group was added to the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) Foreign Drug Kingpin list after close coordination between American and Italian counterparts. The designation is aimed at reducing the ability of 'Ndrangheta members to use the U.S. and international banking systems in furtherance of their drug trafficking operations. The GOI's stated intention to enforce the provision is an indication of the Italian government's commitment to target and dismantle 'Ndrangheta's financial infrastructure.

During 2010, DEA provided training to Italian counterparts on asset forfeiture and drug law enforcement operations. Additionally, the United States Coast Guard provided a mobile training team on seaport security.

D. Conclusion

The USG will continue to work closely with Italian officials to break up trafficking networks in and through Italy as well as to enhance both countries' ability to apply effective demand reduction policies. The USG will also continue to work with Italy in multilateral settings such as the Dublin Group of countries that coordinate counternarcotics and UNODC policies.
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Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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