Palermo. Operation “Duty Free”, 15 persons responsible for tle smuggling and drug trafficking arrested

Land Fiamme Gialle of the Provincial Command of Palermo, in execution of the order issued by the GIP Office of the Court of the capital as a result of investigations coordinated by the DDA of the Palermo Public Prosecutor’s Office, have carried out, with the collaboration of the Departments of the Provincial Command of the Guardia di Finanza of Naples, 15 personal precautionary measures, of which 3 in prison, 7 under house arrest, 5 with the daily obligation of presentation to the pg, for the offenses of criminal association aimed at cigarette smuggling and drug trafficking.

At the same time, the Financiers proceeded with the seizure of financial resources, a building, 2 warehouses, an apartment, 3 cars and 3 motor vehicles, for a total value of approximately 1.5 million euros.

The recipients of the precautionary custody provision in prison are the Palermitans BG (class ’88) and CP (class ’66), leaders and promoters of the criminal organization. For DGG (class ’87), driver on behalf of the shipping company, FG (class ’82), GG (class ’85) and GA (class ’70), the first two couriers and the latter buyer of tle, are house arrest started. Finally, against DSG (class ’66), BM (class ’88), DPG (class ’76) and DPM (class ’57), wholesalers purchasing tle, the precautionary measure of the obligation of presentation to the Judicial Police.

In Naples, the precautionary measure was carried out in prison against AC (class of ’73), as head and promoter of the organization with tasks of procuring the tle in Naples and shipping to Palermo. Under house arrest the associates involved in the expeditions: AA (class ’96), BM (class ’75), CG (class ’60) and for VP (class ’69) the obligation to submit to the Judicial Police.

Another 13 people are also investigated, for a total of 28 subjects involved. Of these, as many as 19 are recipients of Citizenship Income.

The investigations carried out – in the period November 2019 / May 2020 – by the investigators of the 2nd Metropolitan Operational Unit of the Palermo Group, conducted through telephone and environmental wiretapping, video surveillance activities and observation and shadowing services, would have allowed to document a flourishing traffic of foreign manufactured tobaccos put in place on the Palermo square by a criminal organization that used to be stock up in Naples.

In particular, two Palermo subjects (CP and BG), at the head of the criminal group, they would have managed in Palermo the flows of smuggled cigarettes purchased in Campania (from AC) and then hidden in a rented property in the Corso dei Mille area. The group would have supplied itself with the foreign processed smuggled tobacco procured in Naples through targeted transfers carried out by subjects belonging to the organization with tasks of courier / relay using hired cars, traveling outward by ship and back to Palermo by land.

At a later stage, coinciding with the start of travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 virus, the criminal group would have put in place a rather innovative and insidious method. Specifically, the cigarettes would have been sent to Palermo using a shipping company, unaware of illicit traffic, indicating as senders and recipients names and addresses of pure fantasy, and communicated the relative shipping numbers to a trusted man. The latter, a driver operating on behalf of the shipping company (DGG), today under house arrest, took steps to collect and deliver the parcels containing the tle directly to the storage warehouse.

On one occasion it was 1 kg of hashish was also seized, noting, therefore, that the illicit activity of the criminal association would also extend to drug trafficking, evidently also due to the difficulties of retailing cigarettes on the street in the epidemiological period.

During the investigation, about 700 kg of TLE were seized and 3 subjects in the act of crime were arrested.

Furthermore, the Financiers reconstructed that – despite the limitations imposed on travel due to the epidemiological emergency underway by COVID-19 – in just 7 months (November 2019 / May 2020), they would have been transported from Naples to Palermo over 5 tons of cigarettes.

The purchase price in the Neapolitan square would have been 22 euros per carton (less than half of the free sale cigarettes), subsequently sold in the capital of Palermo wholesale at 27 euros and retail for the small sale at 35 euros, for a total turnover of over 2.4 million euros.

The loads of tle, once arrived in the capital of Palermo, would have been sold or transferred for subsequent retail sale mainly in the areas Oreto-Stazione, Settecannoli, Borgo Vecchio, Brancaccio and Zen.

The service activity is part of the constant action to counteract the phenomena of cigarette smuggling and drug trafficking, sources of wealth of organized crime, operated by the Guardia di Finanza both on the investigative level and in the context of the daily economic control of the territory.

In the period 1st January 2020 – 31st March 2021, the Dependent Departments of the Provincial Command of Palermo have operated:

  • in the field of foreign processed tobaccos, the seizure beyond 500 Kg. Of tle, with the report to the AG of 82 subjects, of which 15 under arrest;
  • with regard to the fight against drug trafficking and dealing, the seizure of over 80 kg of hashish, marijuana and cocaine, with the report to the AG of 90 subjects, of which 20 arrested, is 188 reported administratively to the competent Prefectural Authorities.

April 26, 2021 | 09:32

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