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Authorities arrest three Mexican police officers in connection with kidnapping of three Italian nationals

February 24, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Authorities arrest three Mexican police officers in connection with kidnapping of three Italian nationals The Italian citizens disappeared in Jalisco. on Jan.31st Photo:Proceso

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Authorities in Mexico have arrested three local municipal police officers in the state of Jalisco for the alleged abduction of three Italian nationals.

The Jalisco State Prosecutor announced the arrest of the three unidentified police officers in connection with the disappearance of Raffaele Russo, 60, his son Antonio Russo, 25, and nephew Vincenzo Cimmino, 29. All three from Naples, Italy were reported missing from southern Jalisco municipality of Tecalitlán on January 31st.

State Prosecutor Raúl Sánchez Jiménez said investigators have uncovered evidence that the police officers may have handed over the Italian men to cartel gunmen, Proceso reported.

The state is the known stronghold of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking syndicate.

The arrests occurred after Mexican authorities asked law enforcement officials in Rome for a criminal background check on the missing men prompting suspicions the victims were members of the feared Neopolitan-based mafia known as the Camorra.

Previous investigations by U.S., Mexican, and Italian authorities have uncovered direct working ties between Italian organized crime groups and Mexican drug cartels in the transport of narcotics across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Italian citizens disappeared in Jalisco. on Jan.31st Photo: Proceso

Sanchez said the Italians were not in Mexico as tourists as first claimed by relatives, but instead were selling fraudulent-brand power generators and other tools, passing them off as name brands.

“We are asking Italy for records for all of them, not just the three that went missing,” Jalisco attorney general Raul Sanchez told reporters. “But also for the three people that were with them, because we know that it was six of them.”

The Jalisco prosecutor said Raffael Russo was arrested in February 2015 on fraud and bribery charges for selling cheap Chinese merchandise passed off as expensive brand name machinery to a businessman in Campeche, Italy.

The request prompted Silvana Esposito, the wife of Raffaele Russo to deny reports indicating her husband was involved in drug trafficking activities.

“My husband was in a land of drug traffickers, he is not the drug trafficker. That has been the work of my husband Raffaele’s whole life,” Esposito said during an interview with local media.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said the relatives of the disappeared filed a complaint on February 1st, which states that the three men were last seen in an area near Tecalitlán, known for its high presence of organized crime groups.

Family members indicated that they initially contacted the Tecalitlán Police and were told that Antonio Russo and Vincenzo Cimmino had been arrested but did not know the whereabouts of Raffaele Russo.

However, in follow-up phone call, local Police officials allegedly denied knowing the location of all three victims.

Authorities said Rafaelle Russo was the first to go missing on January 31st.

After failing to answer phone calls, his son and nephew went to the last location determined in his rented vehicle’s GPS.

In their last known communication via Whatsapp, Antonio and Vincenzo told family members they had arrived at a gas station on the road to Ciudad Guzman when they were stopped by three unidentified police officers who asked the Italian nationals to accompany them to an unknown location.

The men haven’t been heard from since and officials say authorities have received no ransom demands.

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