Italian anti-mafia police said they busted an international drug ring and arrested 54 people with ties to notorious mafia group 'Ndrangheta attempting to smuggle cocaine with a street value of $1.7 billion into Europe.
While the 'Ndrangheta is based in the southern Calabria region, the 54 people arrested were detained in different parts of Italy, the country's authorities said, according to Reuters.
The group was allegedly conspiring to import about 8 metric tons, or 17,637 pounds, of cocaine from Colombia into Europe via seaports and airports in Calabria, which is at the southern tip of the Italian mainland.
The drug haul was intercepted at a plantation in Colombia, near the Caribbean port of Turbo. Italian newspaper La Repubblica called it "the largest drug seizure in Italian history of combatting drug trafficking."
A "test run" of 139 pounds of cocaine was found hidden in a load of bananas in the port of Livorno, in central Italy, according to Italian police.
The 'Ndrangheta is highly active in the drug trade, and the group has extensive links to criminal groups and drug traffickers in Latin America.
In late 2016, the Italian group was linked to a smuggling attempt that was foiled when authorities found 17 waterproof bags loaded with 850 pounds of cocaine worth $84 million floating in the waters near Gioia Tauro, off the tip of Italy's boot.
A significant portion of the cocaine exiting the Andean region of South America, the world's focal point of cocaine production, exits Brazil — 80% of the cocaine arriving Europe leaves through Brazil's Santos port.
However, Colombia, which produces the most cocaine in the world, is also a major departure point for the drug.
The area around Turbo, where the 'Ndrangheta's alleged cocaine haul was seized, was the site of what was called Colombia's largest cocaine seizure in history: 8 metric tons of the drug worth $240 million recovered on a banana plantation near the port city.
Footage of the Italian operation can be seen below:
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