In the contest of the International Cooperation, from 27 to 28 January, in the Headquarter of the Central Anti-Drug Directory (DCSA), an important training for law enforcements on RELIEF database took place with the support of IPSG. 13 Officers from DCSA and 1 from NCB Rome attended the training. Two Offficers from IPSG explained the RELIEF database that collect and analyze marks and images on bricks and pills of drugs during the packaging. Modalities to implement and to consult RELIEF database were shown during the training.

The initiative in argument, born from the training project on this new INTERPOL tools and involving different Countries, showed the great utility and the potential of RELIEF, useful in anti-drugs activity conducted by LEs around the world.

The Italian support is very important in the implementation of this database, thanks to the data from the Italian drug seizures and in particular regarding marks. These data could be shared and compared with foreign LEs to obtain a shared heritage of information, very useful for an efficient international cooperation in the fight against drugs trafficking.  









Europol, the Agency with which DCSA effectively cooperates in the antidrug sector advised, through the Member States National Units, that they have been made aware of online frauds (Scam) to citizens of several European countries. Such frauds are illegitimately carried out by sending emails or messages on social media , using the names of Europol ‘s Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director.

Europol drew up the following warning message, already published on its site, asking to widely disseminate it within the member States.:

 “Europol has been made aware of scams using the names of their Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director as well as various international Law Enforcement officials. Emails or messages on social  media, written in different languages, use the Europol logo, the name of Catherine De Bolle and/or Jean-Philippe Lecouffe to make it sound serious and legitimate. Don’t be misled- this correspondence is fake. Neither Europol ‘s Executive  Director nor the Deputy Executive Director would directly contact members of the public requesting an immediate action or threatening individuals with opening a criminal investigation.

If  you  receive  a  suspicious  email  or  correspondence  using  the  name  of  Europol’s  Executive Director or Deputy Executive Director, please report the matter to your local Law Enforcement Authority for further  investigation. ”                                   ·

“The Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga of the Department of Public Security- that this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of its establishment, occurred in 1991- on 18 June, 2021, in the eve of the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, published its “Annual Report, summarizing the activities carried out and the results achieved in Italy in 2020.

The Director of the Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga, Lt. General of the Guardia di Finanza Antonino Maggiore, outlined the activities carried out and the results achieved, in the De Sena Room of the Central Directorate of Criminal Police (……)

With respect to the past years, the distinguishing feature of 2020 was the Covid-19 health emergency.  The measures taken at global level to contain the contagion, led to restrictions on people’s mobility and a slowdown in the dynamics of international trade and have also had an impact on drug trafficking that has always taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the transnational movement of goods, to move large-scale drug consignments. The resumption of trade in the second half of the 2020 and the remarkable ability of the criminal organizations to adapt to the different socio-economic context have quickly revived trade after an initial slowdown.

The response of the law enforcement agencies was effective: the amount of antidrug operations coordinated and supported by DCSA (approximately 23,000), is in line with last decade’s average as is the number of reports to the Judicial authorities (approx. 33,000), while drug seizures, 58 tons in total, were higher than in 2019(+7.41%).

The absolute record of cocaine seizures is particularly striking. Such seizures amounted to 13.4 tons, with an increase of 62.2% with respect to 2019, a year in which the record figure of 8.2 tonnes had been registered at national level.

Most of the seizures were carried out in ports, approximately the half of them occurred in Gioia Tauro. The figures related to the first months of this year seem to confirm this growing trend, with a consistently high level of cocaine seizures. Furthermore, the analysis of the operational activities shows a possible reshaping of cocaine trafficking routes, in which Italy is at the crossroads with the Balkan peninsula, as demonstrated by numerous international controlled deliveries of drugs destined for the countries in that area, where organized criminal groups with a consolidated leading role  in the drug trafficking operate, developing important “joint ventures” with South American cartels. The Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, operating in cooperation with other national mafia type organizations and foreign groups, confirmed its leading role in the of international cocaine trafficking.

Despite a clear reduction in the detected shipments, cannabis remains the most widely seized drug, with 29.6 tons and 414,396 plants, which demonstrates a high level of demand.

Compared to the average of the last five years, heroin seizures remained stable (amounting to approx. half a tonne), although lower than in 2019.

Synthetic drugs seizures registered a massive increase in quantities, mainly due to a single operation occurred in the Salerno port. Such operation led to the detection of over 14 tons of amphetamines, probably destined for foreign markets. Synthetic drugs consumption at national level, although still limited and not comparable with the one of traditional drugs, is growing among young people who use the web and social platforms to purchase drugs in the digital drug markets. Illicit substances are delivered at home in different ways, such as by pushers disguised as delivery men or through other disguising methods.

Moreover, in 2020 the law enforcement agencies intercepted 33 new non-scheduled substances, that will be included in the tables of controlled substances.

The decrease of overdose deaths is worth of attention. After three years of continuous growth, in 2020 they were 308, with a decrease of 66units, with respect to 2019 ( -17.65%).

In the year under review, drug trafficking was confirmed as “the main driving force for all illegal activities carried out by the large criminal syndicates”, with huge profits to be laundered and used to self-finance further illegal activities.

Effective international cooperation in the drug trafficking sector has continued. It involved organizations, European and non-European countries and was carried out  through Antidrug  Operational Memorandums (AOM), technical protocols aimed  at encouraging special antidrug operations.

Law Enforcement Attachès posted in strategic drug trafficking areas made an appreciable contribution, both in terms of information flows and promotion of cooperation initiatives with producing and transit countries.


In 2020 the projects “ICARUS” and “HERMES” were further developed. These projects stemmed from the inter-institutional cooperation between the Department for Antidrug Policies of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (DPA) in the demand and supply reduction and prevention fields. Within “ICARUS”, the project “Southern Route” was set up with the Central Directorate of Criminal Police and Interpol. It is aimed at strengthening police cooperation with South-eastern African countries, a new transit area of the Afghan heroin. In the framework of “HERMES”, the guidelines for new operational methods to counteract synthetic drugs trade carried out through postal shipments run by public and private couriers, were outlined. Such guidelines will contribute to the strengthening of the National Early Warning System of the DPA.



Last February  a two-day meeting took place, which was organized in cooperation by the Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga and the Department of Antidrug Policies of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

This meeting gathered together the Heads of the Antidrug Agencies of the countries mostly involved in the fight against drug trafficking and production as well as in the main transport routes. It was also attended by Italian and foreign Prosecutors and top level representatives of the leading International organizations.


This event allowed a direct contact among participants and facilitated an open and constructive analysis of the numerous operational difficulties as well as the sharing of good practices, so to achieve  more and more effective results in the field of cooperation, and in the activities of drug prevention and fight. In this framework, the guidelines indicating a common commitment, were  expressed in the Outcome declaration.

The meeting was successfull at national and international levels and   we are now publishing,  in Italian    and English, the conference proceedings drawn up by DC.S.A.




A parallel contagion:

Is mafia entrepreneurship exploiting the pandemic?

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) . A parallel contagion:  Chapter I – 22 April 2020 Concerned with reports of the Mafia’s exploitation of the current global crisis, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has had the privilege of bringing together four leading figures in Italy’s fight against the mafia for a virtual roundtable to discuss how the mafia is repositioning itself during the pandemic, what the implications are and how the Italian government is responding;  Chapter II – 11 June 2020  With regard to mafia activity in the context of the pandemic, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has carried out research into mafia involvement in three key sectors: Healthcare system, Prisons, Welfare provision ;  Chapter III – 11 June 2020 In these interviews with Italian anti-mafia and organized-crime experts, we explore various ways in which mafia groups in Italy and overseas are exploiting the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic – from providing so-called mafia welfare services to capturing sectors of the legal economy, drug trafficking and money laundering. The interviews are a sequel to our virtual roundtable with four leading figures in Italy’s fight against the mafia, which discusses how the mafia is repositioning itself during the pandemic.   We feature interviews with: Roberto Tartaglia, anti-mafia magistrate and the Deputy Head of the Dipartimento Amministrazione Penitenziaria, Italy’s prison administration department; Raffaele Cantone, anti-mafia magistrate and former President of the Italian Anti-Corruption National Authority (2014–2019); Giuseppe Cucchiara, Director, anti-drugs services at Italy’s Department for Public Security, part of the Interior Ministry, a role he has held since 2017; Marcello Minenna, Director of the Italian Customs and Monopolies Agency.   The interviews were led by Sergio Nazzaro, a journalist, writer and adviser to the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission. Since November 2018, Nazzaro has served as the spokesperson for both the president of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission and Italy’s Deputy Minister of the Interior. In January 2020, he was appointed voluntary spokesperson for Italy’s Deputy  Minister of Health for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Nazzaro is a member of the GI-TOC Network of Experts.

A PARALLEL CONTAGION   c. III  Exploiting the pandemic, the mafia way     

 From c.III : Interview with Giuseppe Cucchiara, Director  anti-drugs services -Dep. Public Security- Interior Ministry-Italy.

NAZZARO: What has happened to drug trafficking while the world has been disrupted by the pandemic? Has the drug trade stopped, or has it merely changed its spots?

CUCCHIARA: The virus’s rapid diffusion throughout much of the world is influencing lifestyles, economies, institutions and many other factors, which have negative consequences both for the people’s everyday life and for governments. The virus has also affected drug trafficking which, although an illicit activity, is a trade whose performance largely depends on the normative functioning of legitimate economies around the world. When an interruption occurs along the global supply chains and transport networks, as is happening now with COVID-19, major criminal organizations and their drug-trafficking activities are affected. Think, for example, about drug manufacturing processes in clandestine labs that need specific products as inputs, which are hardly accessible even in normal market conditions. Another problem facing criminal organizations is related to the transportation phase and its mechanisms. The main drug trafficking routes to Europe are from Latin America for cocaine, and from the east, especially Afghanistan, for opiates. In my opinion, cocaine trafficking is still the major source of income for Italian criminal organizations, especially the ‘Ndrangheta. For this reason, I pay special attention to cocaine trafficking, which is predominantly shipped by sea. The cocaine shipping traffic has contracted, as has trade in legal commodities from Latin America, owing to the pandemic. Given the current restrictions, criminal organizations are looking to different modes of transport. As for street-level drug dealing, restrictions on people’s freedom of movement have led to the development of new ways of operating for dealers and their markets. In Italy, we have witnessed dealers disguised as delivery drivers, others using car-sharing or taxis. While street drug dealing is developing new dynamics, the international drug supply trade has found itself in deep trouble, mainly because the routes for shipping drugs from one hemisphere to the other have been cut off. Containment measures adopted by numerous governments following the pandemic have resulted, according to our data, in a substantial decline in trafficking.

NAZZARO:  In Italy, given that the legal economy can slowly begin to resume now, will drug trafficking pick up again too?

CUCCHIARA:  It is still too early to tell, but it is not unreasonable to assume this might happen. And, as I mentioned, the Giuseppe Cucchiara Courtesy of the author 6 drug trade relies heavily on the healthy performance of licit trade. During this period, legal activities have almost ground to a halt, and this has had repercussions for drug trafficking as well. We need to be circumspect here. The so-called phase 2 of lockdown is currently in place in Italy, but drug trafficking is affected by controls and restrictions in other countries too. For instance, in Peru, security measures adopted in regions where there is a large concentration of cocaine plantations have made it much more difficult for criminal organizations to source chemical precursors that are used in cocaine production. This has caused production to drop. There is a market surplus of coca leaf production, but a shortage of precursors that are needed as inputs for cocaine production, and this has led to a drastic decrease in prices for coca, from about 60 euros to 10 euros for 1.5 kilograms. This has repercussions for the trafficking business: before the pandemic, the wholesale cocaine price in Peru fluctuated between $900 and $1 000 per kilogram; today it currently stands at around $400 per kilogram. So, we will have to wait for other countries to begin easing their economic restrictions to get a better picture of what will happen to drug trafficking here in Italy. What we do know about the trafficking market is that cocaine that is already in circulation in the supply chain in Italy – and in Europe in general – has increased in value because of the current reduced supply in the production markets. We have recorded a 30% rise in the price of cocaine both already present in Europe and for the small amounts that do manage to get shipped from Latin America. In the near future, we expect that the reduced supply of drugs will prompt a further increase in prices. We will be able to see it in the coming weeks.

NAZZARO: Given the disruptive effect the pandemic has had on the drug trade, is this an opportunity for national and international law enforcement to deal a heavy blow to criminal organizations?

CUCCHIARA: International law-enforcement agencies do play a role. But the truth is, the problem first needs to be addressed in the countries where drugs are produced. What concrete action can international agencies take? In Europe, for instance, we deal with product that passes through our borders, but the heavy blow you refer to should be dealt by the producing countries in Latin America – and this lies outside of our scope. Interestingly, Albanian organized-crime groups have stepped up the trafficking of drugs to Italy using routes across the Adriatic. On 10 April, 20 kilograms of heroin and cocaine concealed in a truck were seized in Bari, while, more recently, the authorities intercepted another sizeable shipment of cocaine coming from Albania. In cases like these, when countries are geographically close, collaboration between the police agencies that specialize in countering organized crime is easier and more effective. However, when the commodity is coming from more distant countries, things get complicated.

NAZZARO: In this context of cohabitation with the virus, how are criminal organizations adapting and taking advantage of the emergency situation?

CUCCHIARA: Criminal organizations are extremely flexible. In Italy, mafia groups have made canny, timely investments in, for example, the agriculture and food sectors, the provision of medicines, medical equipment and healthcare products, as well as the funeral industry, cleaning services, waste management and road transport. Mafia groups are known to be highly adept at restructuring and adapting. However, the COVID-19 health emergency has given law-enforcement agencies the opportunity, once activity fully resumes, to have a considerable impact on the drug supply chain. And that means making life difficult for criminal organizations. Although the transnational drug trade depends on a number of external factors, domestic distribution has different dynamics, and in a period of tighter controls, it could suffer a tough blow.

NAZZARO: With regard to drug trafficking, what role does the Italian market and, more generally, the European one, play in the global context?

CUCCHIARA: Italy is predominantly a drug destination market, not a production market; it has high levels of consumption, from synthetic drugs to traditional ones. Italy’s geographic position in Europe makes its ports key sorting centres for traffic destined elsewhere, thus making Italy a transit country too. However, this is true for most coastal European states. Large criminal organizations such as the ‘Ndrangheta – which is considered the global broker of cocaine destinated for Europe – move huge amounts of drugs destined for European states. The ‘Ndrangheta could be behind shipments arriving at any number of Italian or other European ports – Gioia Tauro, Genoa, Antwerp or Rotterdam, for example.

NAZZARO: According to some, during the financial crisis of 2007–2008 the proceeds of drug trafficking allegedly helped sustain a portion of the Italian economy, increasing the level of underworld infiltration into the legal economy. Do you believe there are, at present, the preconditions for a similar situation to recur?

CUCCHIARA: This is a risk that exists, and I would extend it from the threat of drug trafficking to the threat of the mafia presence more generally. It is evident that in the postemergency phase, the threat posed by the mafia could really escalate. Mafia organizations have at their disposal an enormous amount of illicit resources that they can inject into the legal economy at a time where the private sector, in particular small and medium enterprises, are facing a liquidity crisis. Here, the so-called mafia welfare, widely discussed elsewhere, could become a reality. I agree with those who believe the current period brings a genuine risk of further criminal infiltration into corporate structures and the legal economy in general, by providing the necessary liquidity or through loan sharking. In the post-emergency phase, mafias may very well consolidate their presence in the legal economy, and at the same time leverage the level of social consensus that they enjoy.



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