World

Police nab dozens of suspected mobsters in global operation

Police nab dozens of suspected mobsters in global operation

Scores of members of the 'Ndrangheta Italian mafia group have been arrested in raids across Europe.

The raids in Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Suriname marked the biggest cross-border operation against the 'Ndrangheta, the organised crime group which has risen from kidnappings in Calabria to dominating Europe's drug trade. Around 90 arrests were made; 4,000 kilograms (8,820 pounds) of cocaine and 140 kilograms of ecstasy pills were seized.

A leading expert on the 'ndrangheta, Catanzaro-based Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, recently said the Calabrian-based 'ndrangheta syndicate has for years been buying up hotels, restaurants and other properties in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany to both launder some of the billions of dollars it rakes in through cocaine trafficking, as well as invest that money to start "clean" businesses and earn even more revenue.

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

But Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italian anti-Mafia and anti-terrorism national prosecutor, also sounded a note of caution, saying that the raids only scratched the surface of the powerful 'ndrangheta, whose tentacles and illicit activities spread all over the world.

"We send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe".

German federal police confirmed in a statement there had been multiple arrests in the early morning raids, with the main focus of the operation in western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders Holland and Belgium.




In Germany, the raids constituted the country's greatest strike against the mafia, arresting 14 suspects.

But he warned that it was "just a first step", saying the arrests were "nothing for the 'Ndrangheta, there are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions that should be seized".

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.

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

The Wednesday arrests came just a day after the authorities announced the arrest of Settimo Mineo, 80, the presumed new boss of the Cosa Nostra.

Jeweller Mineo, 80, was detained with at least 45 others just before he was due to be appointed official heir to notorious mafia boss Toto Riina, who died in prison previous year.