Lebanon hands over notorious drug dealer arrested near Beirut to Italy

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Lebanon handed over to Italy on Thursday morning a notorious Italian drug dealer arrested last month north of the capital of Beirut, judicial officials said.

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Bartolo Bruzzaniti was flown to Italy on a private jet that took off from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The anti-Mafia prosecutors based in Reggio Calabria, a city in the region of Calabria in southern Italy, have called Bruzzaniti a major organized crime figure.

He was also described as a prominent player in the Bruzzaniti-Morabito-Palamara clan, which is based near the Calabrian town of Africo and is known for criminal activities abroad.

Bruzzaniti was arrested while dining in July at a restaurant in the coastal town of Jounieh, north of Beirut, in a joint action by Lebanon’s General Security Directorate and Italy’s financial police as part of an Interpol action and a crackdown on the prominent Italian organized crime syndicate known as ’Ndrangheta that has activities outside Italy.

According to an official Lebanese document, seen by the Associated Press, the Italian Embassy in Beirut had formally agreed to take “the wanted man” who had agreed to go to Italy to stand trial there.

Lebanese judicial officials did not give further details. Lebanese media have reported that Bruzzaniti came to Lebanon from the African nation of Ivory Coast several months ago and had lived in different apartments around the country until his arrest.

Italian prosecutors also contend that Bruzzaniti helped finance long-time fugitive Rocco Morabito, described as a global cocaine dealer. Morabito was extradited to Italy in July 2022 from Brazil, a year after his arrest in the Latin American country.

In October 2022, Bruzzaniti eluded capture on an Italian warrant as part of a crackdown in which some three dozen suspects were sought in an investigation of suspected international drug trafficking.

Lebanon, which does not extradite its citizens and has no extradition treaties with other countries, made the news when it refused to hand over fugitive and auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn, the former head of Nissan and Renault.

Ghosn, a Lebanese citizen, was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of breach of trust but fled to Lebanon in 2019 in a daring escape out of the country aboard a private jet.

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