Crackdown on Italian mob prompts dozens of arrests in Europe

Mafia raids across Europe target 'Ndrangheta group

Police arrested dozens of suspected mobsters in Europe and South America on Wednesday in a huge worldwide swoop targeting Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia clan, officials said.

The raids were the culmination of an investigation code named 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 prosecution agency that fights cross-border organized crime, which co-ordinated the operation.

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.

The 'Ndrangheta mafia are considered to be one of the most powerful organized crime syndicates in Italy, involved in drugs and firearms trafficking, prostitution, racketeering and shark loaning. Cocaine and ecstasy pills also were seized in the raids.

"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.

Speaking in The Hague, Cafiero de Raho said the arrests "are nothing for 'ndrangheta".

Some 2 million euros (2.3 million dollars) in criminal assets was seized, Eurojust Vice-President Filippo Spiezia said in The Hague.

Officials hailed Wednesday's operation as a serious blow to the group.

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In total 41 people were arrested in Italy, 21 in Germany, 14 in Belgium, five in the Netherlands and two in Luxembourg, with operations still underway, Eurojust said.

"Today, we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe".

In Germany, the raids - which are part of Operation Pollino - are focused on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the mafia has traditionally had a large presence.

The Belgian operations were concentrated on the Limburg area, home to many people of Italian descent who moved there after World War II to work in coal mines, Belgian prosecutors said.

A 2012 police report showed the Ndrangheta could have as many as a hundred active members in this country.

He added, groups of the 'Ndrangheta and its allies, have infiltrated the ports around Europe and "polluted" lawyers and accountants in many countries on their payrolls.

The raids follow Tuesday's operation against the Sicilian Mafia in Palermo, which resulted in the capture of the syndicate's newly elected leader, 80-year-old jeweller Settimo Mineo, in addition to 45 other suspects.

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