Published: Thu, December 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Police launch coordinated raids on Italian mafia in Europe

Police launch coordinated raids on Italian mafia in Europe

The worldwide sweep involved police in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium working together against the powerful organised crime syndicate based in southern Italy.

The raids were the culmination of an investigation codenamed Pollino that was launched in 2016 against the 'Ndrangheta criminal group on allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, said Eurojust, the European agency that fights cross-border organized crime, which coordinated the operation.

Authorities said they conducted raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the 'Ndrangheta, a southern Italy-based organized crime group.

Federico Cafiero De Raho, a prosecutor in Italy, told the press conference that every year about 1.5 tons of cocaine are seized in just a single port in Italy, and said that 'Ndrangheta's smuggling operations in other European ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp, amount to "tons and tons of cocaine". Cocaine and ecstasy pills also were seized in Wednesday's raids.

Five suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, where Dutch prosecutors said the investigation began in 2014 after they noticed money laundering at two Italian restaurants in the south that showed criminal links with Germany and Calabria, home of the 'Ndrangheta.

"They are in charge of drug trafficking in Germany, and they launder money by reinvesting it in legitimate businesses like restaurants", said Christian Hoppe, chief criminal director of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office.

"Today we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe", Eurojust vice president Filippo Spiezia said.

Mafia raids across Europe target 'Ndrangheta group
Police arrest 84 suspected mafia members in coordinated raids across four European countries

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio hailed the operation as "one of the biggest blows inflicted on the mafia" by the Italian authorities.

Italian police said there have been at least 90 arrests, the BBC reported, but the operation is still ongoing elsewhere.

The 'Ndrangheta - whose heartland is the southern Calabria region - is one of the three main mafia groups in Italy, along with the Sicilian mafia and the Camorra.

In Germany, 14 arrests were made, German prosecutor Horst Bien said. "There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized".

Settimino Mineo, center, who allegedly took over as the Palermo head of Cosa Nostra, is escorted by Italian Carabinieri police.

Speaking in The Hague, De Raho said the arrests "are nothing for 'Ndrangheta".

Ndrangheta is a mafia organisation from the south of Italy which has extended its influence to many other countries.

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