Venezuela Arrest Reveals Deepening Italian Mafia Ties

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Venezuela authorities, working closely with Italian and Interpol investigators, apprehended convicted Italian mob boss Salvatore Bonomolo, illustrating the strong ties the Cosa Nostra has with South America.

Italian authorities said that Bonomolo, who in Italy was convicted and sentenced in absentia for extortion and organized crime, was betrayed by phone calls to his family and international money transfers, the Associated Press reported.

Bonomolo began his career collecting “quotas” as part of the extortion rackets for the Sicilian mafia clan known as Palermo Centro, according to the International Business Times. Prior to his capture, he is believed to have managed the group’s drug ties in South America.

InSight Crime Analysis

Venezuela is a known respite for mafiosos of other countries. Numerous Colombian drug traffickers have been captured or killed there, most recently Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” the feared head of the group that bears his name, who was captured there in June.

In 2009, Venezuelan authorities also captured Salvatore Miceli, a member of the Sicilian mafia who was on Interpol’s most wanted list. Miceli, like Bonomolo, was suspected of brokering drug deals between South American and Italian criminal groups.

Venezuela has much to offer organized crime. Transparency International ranks Venezuela as the 172nd most corrupt country — out of 183 — in the world. There is a substantial black market for fake passports, official security forces IDs and other necessary paperwork to help anyone with money to camouflage their real identity. Bonomolo, for instance, had assumed the identity of Angelo Garofalo while working Venezuela.

Ties between South America and Italian groups have traditionally been strong, and are growing as demand fpr cocaine increases in Europe. Colombia mob boss and former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, for instance, used his Italian heritage to establish connections to Europe.

Mexican groups such as the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have also forged strong ties with Italian organizations such as the Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta.

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