A judge in Peru has ordered the preliminary detention of a suspect who allegedly helped the mafia in Italy traffic cocaine to Europe, demonstrating how growing ties between Latin America and Europe is fomenting criminal migration in both directions.
On April 20, a Peruvian judge approved a request from the Attorney General’s Office for the 15-day preventative detention of Gerald Oropeza Lopez, alias “Tony Montana,” and another seven people, who are accused of money laundering and trafficking drugs to Europe, reported El Comercio. The judicial order prevents Oropeza from leaving the country during the investigation.
According to sources from Peru’s anti-drug police, Oropeza worked for the Italian criminal organization known as the ‘Ndrangheta, collecting cocaine from the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) and Alto Huallaga regions of Peru before sending it to the port of Callao, where it was then shipped to Europe.
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The order for Oropeza’s arrest follows an attempt on his life. On April 1, assailants armed with grenades and automatic weapons attacked him as he drove his Porsche home from the airport after a trip to Cancun, Mexico. While the attackers’ identities remain unknown, police believe it was the result of a dispute with Gerson Galvez, alias “Caracol,” regarding payments over drug shipments to Europe.
On April 19, Patrick Zapata Coletti — a friend of Oropeza who had traveled with him to Mexico — was found dead. Zapata — who authorities said was kidnapped and murdered — was a key witness for the investigations into the Porsche attack and Oropeza’s drug trafficking links.
InSight Crime Analysis
The case of Oropeza, and his presumed connections with the Italian mafia, highlight the growing importance of Europe as a drug market and the movement of criminal groups in both directions.
In recent years, cocaine demand in Europe has been rising, while that of the United States has been falling. In response, criminal groups have adapted, with evidence suggesting that Latin American organized crime has been moving to establish drug supply and distribution networks in Europe.
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This process of criminal migration has also worked in reverse. In recent years, Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia — which has been estimated to control up to 80 percent of cocaine imports into Italy — has moved to Latin America. This has been particularly true in Colombia, where in 2013 authorities arrested one of the top leaders of the organization.
In Peru, signs of a ‘Ndrangheta presence first appeared in June 2014, when a man suspected of being the most important cocaine supplier for the ‘Ndrangheta’s European market was arrested by authorities in Lima.