Seven people have been arrested in Costa Rica on suspicion of smuggling cocaine to the U.S. and Europe. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Police in Costa Rica arrested seven men suspected of smuggling several tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe, authorities said on Wednesday (October 14). The men were part of a crime ring linked to the Italian mafia allegedly run out of a New York pizzeria. Five Costa Ricans and two Cubans were arrested over the course of ten raids, Costa Rica's Attorney General Jorge Chavarria told a news conference. He said three local businesses sent cocaine hidden within the sheets of cardboard boxes of exported goods including pineapple and cassava. Costa Rican authorities worked with Italian prosecutors for months, to "attack" the branch of the mafia organisation called 'Ndrangheta," said Chavarria, adding that properties have also been confiscated, but no cash yet. The operation is ongoing. Also know as the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta is considered to be Europe's biggest cocaine importer by Italian authorities. Chavarria said that since late last year, nearly 3.7 tons of cocaine shipped from Costa Rica has been impounded in the United States, the Netherlands and Belgium. The bulk of the cocaine seized was a 3.5-ton haul in the Netherlands last year, Chavarria noted. The Costa Rican bust is related to the March arrest of an Italian-born New York city pizzeria owner Gregorio Gigliotti, who investigators consider the kingpin of the network. Two months later, Italian police rounded up 13 Italians with links to organised crime for running the European side of the drug ring. Gigliotti, along with his wife and son, have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is due to start next April. They face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted. Among the Italians arrested was a man investigators described as Gigliotti's ambassador and courier. He travelled extensively between Italy, the United States and Costa Rica to set up the drug deals, according to the Italian arrest warrant. Gigliotti and his Italian ambassador are closely tied to the 'Ndrangheta mafia, the Italian arrest warrant said. Helped by its flourishing drug business, the 'Ndrangheta has taken over from its better known Sicilian cousin Cosa Nostra as Italy's most powerful crime group and has replaced it as the main partner of New York's traditional mafia families.