Swiss is prime suspect in cigarette smuggling probe

Franco della Torre is the prime suspect in the European-wide probe into cigarette smuggling Keystone Archive

A Swiss man is at the centre of a Europe-wide probe into the cigarette industry by Italy's anti-Mafia office in Bari.

This content was published on November 7, 2001

Italian prosecutor Giuseppe Scelsi considers Franco della Torre the kingpin in international cigarette trafficking, and has placed him at the top of a list of suspected cigarette smugglers.

Della Torre, 59, who was earlier implicated in a 1980s money laundering affair nicknamed the "Pizza Connection", insists he is innocent.

He denied Scelsi's claim that he received "a unique cigarette export licence from authorities in Montenegro", which the anti-Mafia division says is the nerve centre of the global smuggling ring.

"Franco della Torre has never committed an offence in the sphere of his commercial activities," his lawyer, Renzo Galfetti said. The Ticino-based lawyer added that "no information had been communicated" to his client.

The inquiry does not target tobacco multinationals such as Philip Morris or Reynolds, but rather those at the helm of a smuggling ring of American cigarettes, according to the Italian press agency, ansa.

Scelsi's case relies on the testimony of Italian Francesco Gabriele, 52, a former Reynolds employee who is also suspected by the Bari authorities of cigarette smuggling. Gabrielle has said that after leaving Reynolds in 1992, he became involved in the sale of cigarettes.

In part, the investigation involves cigarettes allegedly smuggled through Montenegro, transported via the Adriatic and received by Italian smugglers, authorities said.

swissinfo with agencies

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