Italy police raid mafia cocaine lab near Naples

Italian Guardia di Finanza police inspect a cocaine refining laboratory, which was raided on Wednesday, in a town on the slopes of the Vesuvius volcano south of Naples, in this still image taken from a Guardia di Finanza video, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Guardia di Finanza/ Handout via Reuters

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police on Wednesday raided a cocaine refining laboratory in a town on the slopes of the Vesuvius volcano south of Naples, arresting five people including two known members of the local mafia, a statement said.

Police also arrested three Colombian nationals and found 7 kilos of cocaine paste and 20 liters of a coke-based liquid that would have been worth 3 million euros ($3.35 million) on the street once processed, finance police said.

While Italy’s mafia groups are known to be major European importers of cocaine, the drug usually arrives from South America already refined. The bust shows an increased sophistication in camouflaging the drug, a police official said.

The lab, set up in the kitchen of an apartment, was used to extract the drug from a plastic-looking material, police said.

“It was easier to hide the coke in this raw state,” finance police Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Furciniti told Reuters. “Probably the Colombians had come to Italy to explain the extraction process, because obviously only those who prepared it know how to refine it.”

Furciniti provided no further details about how the drug was brought into Italy or how the lab was discovered, explaining that the investigation was ongoing.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Toby Chopra