The Italian mafia has been collaborating with ISIS to smuggle cannabis into Europe from North Africa, according to the Italian government’s head of counterterrorism. Franco Roberti, who also serves as Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, said last week that evidence obtained by Italian police found linkages between “suspected terrorists” and Italian mafia members in the smuggling of illicit hashish.
Roberti, 68, cited the main route for smuggling hashish in North Africa as cutting through the coastal Libyan city of Sirte, a city currently controlled by ISIS. According to recent comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the Libyan branch of ISIS represents the most dangerous “metastasis” of the militant group outside of Iraq and Syria.
“Certainly IS controls the Libya route; it controls the coast along the Gulf of Sirte.” – Roberti
Cannabis use is forbidden under Sharia Law. However, a new report by IHS Inc. found that ISIS’ trafficking in drugs accounts for just under 7 percent of the group’s income. The report also found, however, that ISIS’ financial stability has declined in the past year, leading the group to possibly beef up its areas of financial gain, including drug smuggling.
“The Islamic State is still a force in the region, but, this drop in revenue is a significant figure and will increase the challenge for the group to run its territory in the long term,” said senior IHS analyst Ludovico Carlino.
According to Roberti, a method of combating the terrorist organization’s alleged partnership with the mafia would be to relax the country’s stance on cannabis use. This, he says, would redirect the efforts of the country’s investigators towards more serious drug dealers while also potentially depriving traffickers of a valuable source of income. “We spend a lot of resources uselessly. We have not succeeded in reducing cannabinoid trafficking. On the contrary, it’s increasing,” he continued. “Is it worth using investigative energy to fight street sales of soft drugs?”
“Decriminalization or even legalization would definitely be a weapon against traffickers, among whom there could be terrorists who make money off of it.” – Roberti
The U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told reporters on Monday that ISIS was operating clandestine terrorist cells in several European countries, Italy included. “That is a concern, obviously, of ours and our European allies,” he stated.
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