Operation La Vallette follow-up investigation yields 21 more arrests

Follow-up investigations just over a year on from Operation La Vallette – which on 1 December 2021 broke up a massive narcotics trafficking cartel operating between Sicily, Calabria, Albania and Malta –resulted in more arrests last week.

Italy’s Direzione Investigativa Antimafia’s (DIA) report for the second half of 2021 had labelled Operation La Vallette as proof of a narcotics trafficking cartel operating between Sicily, Calabria and Malta.

The crime ring the operation uncovered comprised ‘Ndrangheta Mazzaferro clan members and individuals from Malta, Ragusa and Albania.

According to the DIA, drugs were trafficked on a route starting in Albania and, after transiting in Puglia or Calabria, they reached the organisation’s operational base in Ispica, Sicily.

From there, the DIA reported, the drugs would be resold in Malta and across Sicily.

The crackdown resulted in the arrest of 17 individuals including one Maltese – 55-year-old John Spiteri, who is alleged to have run the Maltese side of the operation – and the seizure of 432 kilograms of unspecified narcotics.

Italian investigators picking up on the trail of Operation La Vallette for the last year arrested a further 21 people and confiscated 34 kilos of cocaine, 400 kilos of marijuana, a kilo of hashish, and 11,000 cannabis plants.

Images from last week’s haul

The new operation, code-named Slot Machine, was carried out in various Sicilian provinces by the Catania Guardia di Finanza with the involvement of 140 Fiamme Gialle personnel.

The investigations shed light on an organisation that allegedly managed the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana and hashish in copious amounts.

At the top of the group were four brothers of the Vitale family, who, according to the indictment, acted as the wholesalers for the other suppliers.

The group, according to the prosecution, “would have had profiles of contiguity with the Cappello-Bonaccorsi clan“.

Italy’s DIA has long held that Malta’s proximity to Italy, the ease with which customs controls are avoided, and the ins and outs that come with EU membership have facilitated the ‘migration’ of various matrices of Italian organised crime to Malta.

Also beneficial to mafia clans are Malta’s tax system and its business-friendly corporate regulatory framework, which have seen considerable money laundering activities of various mafia clans, not to mention the country’s often shady remote gaming industry.

In Operation La Vallette, Maltese national John Spiteri was found to have worked Italian national Rosario Amico to smuggle drugs from Puglia to Malta between 2018 and 2019 in a vehicle with Maltese license plates driven by Spiteri’s Maltese collaborator – 55-year-old Fabian Catania, who was not arrested – and Albanian Eriseld Hoxhaj, known as ‘Riku’.

Italian court documents show how Spiteri and Amico organised the shipments of drugs from Puglia to Malta between 2018 and 2019.

In December 2021, Italian police issued a European Arrest Warrant for Spiteri after a four-year investigation into the drug trafficking ring. After being arrested last June on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant issued by a Sicilian court, Spiteri was ordered to be extradited in August to face drug trafficking charges. In September the Maltese courts released him on bail again as proceedings continue.


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Ray Farrugia
Ray Farrugia
1 month ago

Business friendly! Now where did we hear that before!

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