Pubdate: Tue, 04 Sep 2001
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Telegraph Group Limited
Author: Bruce Johnston
Note: Bruce Johnson is reporting from Rome.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


VINE growers in Sicily are being coaxed by the Mafia to abandon their 
vineyards for a much more lucrative crop - cannabis, say local investigators.

In a full-page report yesterday, the newspaper La Repubblica said an area 
stretching for "thousands of square kilometres" had been nicknamed il 
triangolo d'oro di marijuana.

The capital of the "golden triangle" is Partinico, a Mafia heartland 12 
miles from Palermo, where cannabis grows in greenhouses among the vineyards.

During the most recent of 10 seizures at cannabis plantations in the area, 
paramilitary police arrested nine farmers, including Antonio Bonomo, son of 
Don Giuseppe Bonomo, the Mafia godfather of Partinico.

They found 14,000 plants in greenhouses he controlled near Menfi, which 
used the latest technological equipment. The plants were said to have 
reached an average height of 5ft. Police also impounded two tons of 
cannabis with a commercial value of UKP25 million.

The growers are thought to have successfully eluded the police until now by 
dismantling the greenhouses after harvesting their crop or following a 
tip-off. The greenhouses are then re-erected elsewhere.

The paper quoted an investigator as saying: "By offering them millions of 
lire the cannabis producers easily persuade small and large landholders 
alike to rent them land on short lets where they can set up their greenhouses.

"The landowner, faced with the potential pitfalls of growing melons and 
baby tomatoes, wastes no time accepting such offers. He can make more 
money, while working and risking less."
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