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Italy demands extradition of suspected cigarette smuggler

The Balkans black market acts as a channel for European smugglers


The Swiss federal police have confirmed receiving a request from Italy for the extradition of a businessman suspected of fronting an international cigarette-smuggling ring.

The 54-year-old Italian, Gerardo Cuomo, was arrested on May 10 in Zurich, where he remains in custody. "We received a formal request last week for the extradition of Cuomo," said police spokesman, Folco Galli, on Wednesday. "He is suspected of belonging to a criminal organisation and money laundering."

Galli said Switzerland was considering the request, but did not say when it would decide on Cuomo's fate.

The Italian authorities believe Cuomo, who had resided in canton Ticino, is a key figure in the cigarette smuggling trade.

Reports say the trade is organised out of Switzerland. The cigarettes are purchased duty-free in Rotterdam and transported to Montenegro where they are smuggled by speedboat across the Adriatic into Italy, before being resold on the streets across Europe.

Cuomo is believed to have resided in Ticino until 1998, and his tobacco import-export company is still based in Lugano.

On Tuesday, the authorities in the canton placed two top justice officials under investigation. It is believed the inquiry is linked to the Cuomo affair.

The chief prosecutor, Luca Marcellini, and the criminal court judge, Marco Verda, are suspected of malfeasance. No details about the nature of the allegations were released, but it is believed the federal prosecutor's office uncovered evidence suggesting that Cuomo may have enjoyed a measure of protection from them.

Marcellini and Verda have voluntarily stepped down for the duration of the investigation.

swissinfo with agencies

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