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Australia frustrates anti-mafia operation -

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(generated from captions) picture is still a long way short picture is still a long way short of complete. Nick Grimm with that report. An Italian police operation to disrupt Mafia drug smuggling to countries, including Australia, has been frustrated by a decision here not to extradite four Australians who are allegedly members of the Mafia. The Italians are seeking the extraditions of the four who are alleged prominent local members of the Mafia. Arrest warrants for the four men were issued in Italy two years ago, but so far the Australian Government has made no move to extradite them because it says there's insufficient evidence. Italian investigators disagree. And, according to some Australian crime experts, law enforcement agencies here have become so pre-occupied with the threat of terrorism that they've taken their eye off organised crime. Nick McKenzie reports.

There's absolutely no doubt drug

trafficking in Australia still

causes far more damage to far more

Australians than all of the

terrorist acts that have been

contemplated, let alone carried out

in Australia, in the last 10-years.

Terrorism and so forth is pretty

much taken up all of the budget. So

you're not going to get a lot of

money thrown at something that

money thrown at something that isn't in the face of people causing great problems.

The resources of the AFP, the

resources of state police forces

resources of state police forces are now being largely directed towards

the terrorist threat. Perceived or

real, it's a response to a

real, it's a response to a political assessment as much as to a law

enforcement assessment.

In 2004 at a port in southern Italy

a police investigation code named

Operation Takeoff hit the jackpot.

Police seized hundreds of kilograms

of cocaine hidden in marble blocks,

but it was only a fraction of what

the Mafia had hoped to send

overseas. Italian authorities say

one of the countries on the Mafia's

list was Australia.

(Speaks in Italian)

Australian police disrupted part of

this cocaine smuggling business

this cocaine smuggling business when they arrested this man in Adelaide

in 2000. They seized 317 kgs of the

drug. In 2004, the Italian-born

Australian was sentenced to 20

Australian was sentenced to 20 years in prison. #6 but despite the bust,

Italian authorities believe that

more than 100 kgs of cocaine worth

millions of dollars had already

found its way on to the Australian

market. And now the Italians say

they have identified four

Australians who later conspired

Australians who later conspired with the Mafia to import an additional

500 kgs of cocaine. They want them

extradited to face charges in Italy.

As an anti-Mafia prosecutor Dr

Salvatore Curcio knows the stakes

are high in his line of work. He

rarely leaves his office without a

bodyguard. The picturesque scenery

hides a grisly, but well documented

history of violence, particularly

towards those investigating the

local Mafia, known in Italy as the

Draguna and in Australia the

Honoured Society. Dr Curcio doesn't

move without good evidence and he's

convinced he has that in the case convinced he has that in the case of the Australians.

Arrest warrants prepared by an

Italian court provide detailed

descriptions of their alleged

criminal activity. Dr Curcio

describes one in particular as a Mr

Big of Australian Mafia operations.

The Australian Federal Police

conducted their own investigation

into the four men, including

surveillance of their movements.

However, the Director of Public

Prosecutions did not believe the

Prosecutions did not believe the AFP investigation provided enough

evidence to charge the men. The

Italians, though, are clearly more

certain of their case.

But two years after arrest warrants

were issued by an Italian court,

were issued by an Italian court, the the four men are yet to face

A spokeswoman for the AFP said that

mutual assistance requests for a

matter for the Attorney-General's

Department, but a spokesman for the

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said

he could not comment on extradition

matters. Certainly if these are

requests intended to lead to

extradition processes, then one

would have assumed they would have

been given some high degree of

priority. I suspect, however,

without knowing the details of

particular cases, that this

particular cases, that this reflects in large part the priority that's

being afforded to anti-terrorist

activities above vir Tully

everything else. The 7:30 Report

understands there is now a risk the

AFP may close its file on the

Australian.men, a move that could

impact on any extradition request.

Questions about the Mafia in

Australia gained prominence in the

'70s, after the murder of Donald

Mackay in Griffith. Similar

questions were asked again in the

'90s by the national crime

authority, which concluded a local

honoured society was more myth than

reality. But former NCA chairman

bomb Broome is now warning

bomb Broome is now warning attention has shifted too far away from

Italian organised crime. It's been

the law enforcement agencies

responding to what they believe the

Government wants to hear. So

proposals for enhanced

anti-terrorism activity are being

developed and presented to

Government and Government has

basically grabbed those with both

hands. Some who've risked their

hands. Some who've risked their live to infiltrate the Mafia grow.

to infiltrate the Mafia grow. Former undercover policeman Damian Marrett

shows him during a drug bust.

There'sa mountain of intelligence

out there to show that, yes, there

is a structured Italian unit

is a structured Italian unit working here and are involved in organised

crime. Damian Marrett also

infiltrated a plan to smuggle drugs

into Australia on a small plane, a

story featured in his book

Undercover. It's like any family

things are passed on down. People

are brought up to learn their trade,

the trade of their father. They've

got reasons why they believe

got reasons why they believe they're going to be successful and the

going to be successful and the whole thing of it is that a lot of these

families have made a hell of a lot

of money out of it. The secretive

but successful NSW crime commission

also warned in 2004 that if Italian

organised crime network has

organised crime network has received relatively little law enforcement

attention, yet continues to

attention, yet continues to generate substantial wealth . Back in Italy

there are similar warnings. Dr

Curcio says the Australians he

Curcio says the Australians he wants to prosecute plan to launder

millions of dollars in drug profits

for the Mafia. #6

It's a network which according to

It's a network which according to Dr Curcio has helped the Honoured

Society become the leading Mafia

group in Italy and to give it

further power to extend its reach

back overseas.