Is Francesco Bonino Based on an Actual Drug Trafficker?

Netflix’s ‘Turn of the Tide’ takes place on an island where everything changes when tons of cocaine appear on its shores. The story centers on a young man named Eduardo and his friends, who get their hands on a considerable amount of drugs to sell them, make money, and make their dreams come true. Their journey takes many twists and turns as what had started as a promising scheme to make quick money turns into something much more dangerous. All of this begins with the arrival of a mysterious man named Francesco Bonino.

Antonino Quinci: The Real Inspiration Behind Francesco Bonino

The character of Francesco Bonino in ‘Turn of the Tide’ is based on a real drug dealer named Antonino Quinci. The show is inspired by an event in 2001 when tons of cocaine washed up on the shore of São Miguel. The series presents that event through a fictional lens. However, some of its characters, including Bonino, are a version of the real people involved in the case.

In 2001, Antonino Quinci and Vito Rosario carried tons of cocaine in their yacht, whose rudder broke, forcing them to detour from their destination in mainland Spain. To fix the rudder and continue their journey, they needed to stop on the way, and the nearby land was the Azores. Because they couldn’t legally dock there, they hid the cocaine in obscure places on the coast that no one would visit. They hid all the drugs by securing them with fishing nets, but the force of the water was too strong, and the netting broke.

While Quinci and Rosario were busy trying to fix the rudder, their cocaine was being found by the locals and seized by the cops. The cops eventually located Quinci, but Rosario was nowhere to be found. Quinci was found in his yacht, with maps and documents telling them about the origins of his journey and where he was meant to take all of that cocaine. It also became a struggle to identify him because he had two Italian passports, a Spanish passport, and a Spanish national ID card. All of them were listed under a different name, but they eventually figured out that he was Antonino Quinci.

While the Netflix series changes the character’s name and fictionalizes a few things about him, it sticks to the facts while concocting Bonino’s arc. Much of what happens in the show happened in real life with Quinci. A local officer, who spoke a little Italian, established communication with him because Quinci couldn’t speak Portuguese. At first, he talked easily to the cops and even led them to where he’d hidden the stash. Later, however, he changed his tactics and became highly uncooperative.

During his time in prison, Quinci took many phone calls, which are believed to have been him contacting his bosses and updating them on the situation. He also used the help of inmates to find a way out of the prison. He climbed and jumped off the barbed-wired wall and secured a rental scooter to make his escape. However, he couldn’t get off the island so quickly. He found shelter in the house of a local and stayed there for about a fortnight.

Over time, Quinci’s contacts came through, and he received the money and passport to leave the island. However, before he could do that, he was captured in a police raid. Reportedly, the cops didn’t know where Quinci was hiding. His arrest was a stroke of luck for them. On his second arrest, Quinci received a sentence of eleven years, later reduced to ten, for drug trafficking, using a false identity, and escaping from prison. His whereabouts have remained a mystery since then.

Read More: Is Netflix’s Turn of the Tide Based on a True Story?