ROME (Reuters) - A suspected Italian mafia boss described as Europe’s most wanted drug trafficker and the world’s biggest cocaine importer has been arrested in Colombia, the government there said on Saturday.
Roberto Pannunzi, compared to the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar by Colombian authorities, was caught in a Bogota shopping centre carrying a false Venezuelan identity card, the Defence Ministry announced on Twitter.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worked with Colombian police to find and arrest Pannunzi, the ministry said.
Pannunzi is linked to the powerful Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, a crime syndicate closely associated with Colombian drug cartels. Authorities accuse him of importing two tonnes of cocaine into Europe every month.
Calabria-based prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that Pannunzi was “the biggest importer of cocaine in the world”.
He is being deported to Italy, where he has been convicted for drug trafficking, and should arrive late on Saturday, Italian media reported.
Pannunzi was arrested in 2004 but managed to flee detention in 2010 during a hospital stay.
Anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano wrote on Facebook that Pannunzi’s arrest could “change the history of drug-trafficking” and reveal the methods behind such criminal networks.
Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Robin Pomeroy