Joint Italy-US operation breaks up fentanyl trafficking ring. On Wednesday, the Italian finance corps (the Guardia di Finanza) arrested seven individuals in Piacenza. They were linked to the trafficking of that synthetic opioid from China to the United States, where a parallel operation resulted in the arrest of eleven more suspects in Ohio.
- The news broke on the same day US President Joe Biden agreed with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to cooperate on curbing fentanyl production, a key priority for his administration. Much of the global share of the opioid and its precursor chemicals originate from China.
- Back in July, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi had also agreed to cooperate on contrasting synthetic opioids with his local counterpart Alejandro Mayorkas.
The details. The Italian investigation, which was coordinated by prosecutors in Piacenza, began in the US and was conducted in close cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Cleveland. Authorities discovered incoming fentanyl parcels from China disguised as electronics or books. They would be shipped to Piacenza and across the Atlantic from there, a triangulation designed to avoid the attention of US law enforcement agencies.
- The Italian finance corps investigation also uncovered an ingenious, extremely efficient, and profitable money counterfeiting and laundering mechanism, which entailed conversions in bitcoin and using perfect copies of Swiss francs, which were manually changed into euros using automatic exchange machines in Switzerland.
The main character: 51-year-old Giancarlo Miserotti, originally from Piacenza, is at the centre of the investigation. He allegedly operated from his home, a historic villa located in a park in his hometown, which allowed him to keep track of his surroundings, authorities believe. He mainly worked through the internet (the finance corps rarely saw him go out in six months of surveillance), ordering shipments of fentanyl in China and synthetic heroin in India, and was aided by his wife, their daughter and others, who were responsible for laundering the money.
- The drugs he ordered arrived in Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, either directly or after passing through Piacenza.
- He became an expert chemist over the year, knowledgeable enough to instruct his Chinese and Indian suppliers about exact dosages, skilfully balance the active ingredients and cut his product with xylazine (a powerful veterinary anaesthetic that prolongs the fentanyl’s effects but wreaks havoc on the organism) to achieve maximum profit while minimising the risk of overdose for users.