Mafia drug cartels hit in worldwide police swoop

Erika Holt
December 8, 2018

Police arrested dozens of people in Europe and South America in a "decisive hit" against Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia group, officials said Thursday.

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.

Joint investigative teams involving police in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are targeting members of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia.

The 'Ndrangheta group comes from Calabria in the south of Italy, it is one of three mafia crime groups, which includes the Camorra, and the Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia.

The "unprecedented" crackdown on the group based in Calabria, southern Italy, came just a day after Italian police arrested the new boss of the separate Sicilian mafia.

A total of 200 million euros ($227 million) of criminal money, as well as 140 kg of ecstasy pills and more than 3,000 kg of cocaine were seized.

"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.

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Law enforcement and judicial officials speak at a press conference organized by Eurojust in The Hague, Netherlands, on December 5, 2018. He was arrested together with with 45 other top mobsters, Italian authorities said Tuesday.

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

Wednesday's raids were the culmination of an investigation codenamed "Pollino" that was launched in 2016 against the 'Ndrangheta.

Hoppe said the crime organization's drug trafficking operations are extensive and sophisticated, with the use of "human money mules and vehicles with special hiding compartments". They are accused of committing "serious crimes" including activities linked to global drug trafficking, Italian police said in a statement. His arrest was among the 46 people taken into custody.

Germany's Der Spiegel reported that the German operation was mostly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia - a stronghold for the mafia - and involved 240 police and another 240 support staff from the federal criminal agency.

Eurojust said those arrested Wednesday included "high-ranking members of the Mafia network", but didn't release their names.

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