Page 3 Profile: Roberto Pannunzi, drug baron


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The Independent Online

I don’t recognise him.

Nor should you. Pannunzi was Europe’s most wanted drug trafficker, the linchpin of the transatlantic cocaine trade, a blood relation of the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta  clan and a go-between for them, the Cosa Nostra family of Sicily and the Colombian drug cartels – and the only man to go to if you’re looking for a delivery of upwards of 3,000kg of the stuff, apparently.

How much does that set you back?

Your guess is as good as ours, but one thing is for certain – he made an awful lot from it. Always travelling with a suitcase of cash and wearing a string of diamonds around his neck, Pannunzi once asked the head of a special police unit who had burst in on him: “Do you want a million dollars? In cash? Right now?”

So crime does pay?

No! The man known as Bebè (baby) is out of luck. He was captured on Friday in Bogota in a joint operation by the Colombian police and US drugs officers. He’s now languishing in prison in his  native Italy.

And he’s there for good?

Hard to say. He’s been captured twice before – and walked away scot free both times. In 1994, the Colombian officer turned down that cash offer, but Pannunzi was released after five years of having no successful trial brought against him. Recaptured in 2004, he was sentenced to 16 years by an Italian court but was transferred to a private clinic six years later on health ground – and vanished.

Anything to say in his defence?

He looks the part. He ran a men’s boutique in Rome as a cover for many years, and was always immaculately turned out. And unlike infamous drug lord Pablo  , he is said to have never killed anyone. If a freshly-pressed sports jacket and blood-free hands are all you ask, then Pannunzi is as innocent as his nickname suggests.