International drug ring dismantled
Police have arrested 14 suspected drug runners from the Netherlands and seized more than 55 kilos of cocaine in a major international bust, Rome authorities said on Thursday.
The men were arrested over the past seven months in an operation codenamed ‘New Orange’ involving Italian police and European and South American anti-narcotics agents, a police spokesman from Rome's Fiumicino airport told AFP.
"The cocaine was hidden in false bottoms and handles of the Dutch traffickers' suitcases," he said, estimating the total street value of the haul at more than EUR 20 million (USD 28 million).
Airport police became suspicious after observing a pattern of travel by similarly dressed Dutch individuals from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America, via Rome to Belgium and the Netherlands, he said, noting that it was an unusual route for drug-running.
"These details attracted our attention and prompted us to carry out heightened surveillance," he said.
When arrested, the suspects were all found to have concealed the cocaine, which originated in Argentina, in the same way, the spokesman said.
The first suspected drug runner was arrested in February, and the last was caught in July at Brussels' airport Zaventem.