Mexican authorities have confirmed that three Italian men who went missing in late January were delivered to a criminal gang by local police officers in Jalisco state.
“They were sold for €43, it is monstrous,” said Francesco Russo, a relative of all three, in recent statements to the state broadcaster RAI1. “Mexican police officers sold my relatives for 43 [expletive] euros. Those are the criminals, and not my brother, father and cousin.”
They stopped us and told us to follow them. We are now following the police
Russo fears for the lives of Antonio and Raffaele Russo and Vincenzo Cimmino, who are from Naples, in southern Italy. All three went missing on January 31 in the Mexican town of Tecalitlán, 700 kilometers from the capital, in the state of Jalisco.
Four police officers have been arrested and charged with the disappearance. Mexican prosecutors said that the suspects confessed to “selling” the victims to an organized gang in Tecalitlán, although which particular one is still unknown.
Jalisco is home to a criminal cartel known as Nueva Generación (New Generation), which has made significant inroads into the area in recent years.
Francesco Russo has denied allegations that his father Raffaele, 60, used fake ID during his stay in Mexico. He said that his relatives were in the country to sell electric generators and Chinese-made products.
“Italy must do something, we must be told where they are. We hope they are alive,” asked Gino Bergamé, a family spokesman. Protest marches have taken place in Italy to demand their safe return.
All three missing men went into Mexico to conduct commercial activities, not as tourists. One of them had been arrested in another state, prosecutors have confirmed.
According to their family’s account of events, Raffaele was the first to go missing, in the afternoon of January 31. Two hours later, the other two attempted to locate him using the GPS signal from his rental car. When they arrived at the spot, Antonio, 25 and Vincenzo, 29 were allegedly surrounded by local police officers and ordered to follow them down to the station.
Antonio sent a message to his brother back home with information about the situation: “We were filling the tank at a gas station and some police officers stopped us. Two motorcycles and a patrol car. They stopped us and told us to follow them. We are now following the police.”
English version by Susana Urra.