Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

More than 80 arrested in Mafia raids in Europe and South America

Masked police stand in an ice parlor in Duisburg western Germany Wednesday Dec. 5 2018 as authorities conduct coordinated raids in Germany Italy Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the Italian mafia Mafia raids across Europe target 'Ndrangheta group
Melinda Barton | 06 December, 2018, 16:32

Police in Europe and in South America have arrested at least 84 suspected mobsters in a massive worldwide crackdown targeting a powerful branch of Italy's notorious mafia, officials said.

At least 90 people were arrested, and more than three tons of drugs and millions of laundered money were seized across Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Wednesday's raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation codenamed Pollino against the powerful 'ndrangheta criminal group on allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, Eurojust said.

European officials announced the arrests at the Hague headquarters of Eurojust, the European Union prosecutors agency set up to bolster the fight against cross-border crime in the 28-nation bloc.

German federal police said in a statement on December 5 that there had been multiple arrests in the early morning raids on premises linked to the 'Ndrangheta, a southern Italy-based organized crime group.

Some 140 kilograms of ecstasy pills and 3 000-4 000 kilos of cocaine were seized during the operation, Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said at a press conference in The Hague on Wednesday.

Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italian anti-mafia and anti-terrorism national prosecutor, said the arrests "are nothing for 'ndrangheta". His arrest was among the 46 people taken into custody.

In Germany, the operation focused on restaurants, offices and apartments, mainly in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria, with 21 suspects targeted.

"Today, we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe", Filippo Spiezia, vice president of the EU's judicial agency Eurojust, told reporters in The Hague.

The Ndrangheta mafia operates from Calabria in southern Italy and is one of the world's largest crime syndicates, controlling as much as 80 percent of Europe's cocaine trade.

Officials hailed Wednesday's operation - dubbed "Operation Pollina" - as a serious blow to the group.

Police swooped just a day after the alleged "godfather" of the Sicilian mafia was arrested, along with 45 other suspected mobsters.

Italian police said the sweep targeted the 'Ndrangheta and its "projections across South America".

Mr De Raho said the arrests "are nothing for 'Ndrangheta".

The 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, which comes from Italy's Calabria region, is widely believed to be the most powerful Italian mafia organization, with massive rackets in money laundering and cocaine dealing.