Crotone (Italy), May 15 (IANS/AKI) Police in Italy on Monday smashed a mutil-billion euro migrant reception racket allegedly being run by the Calabrian mafia '(Ndrangheta) and arrested 68 members of its powerful Arena clan.
Among those detained were a parish priest and Leonardo Sacco, head of a Catholic charity that ran the Cara 'Santa Anna' - Europe's largest migrant reception centre - in the coastal town of Isola Capo Rizzuto in Calabria's province of Crotone, daily Corriere della Sera reported.
Thanks to its ties with parish priest Edoardo Scordio and Sacco, the Arena family won lucrative tenders worth at least 30 million euros to provide maintenance and other services to Cara 'Santa'Anna', which can hold 1,500 migrants, Corriere cited investigators as saying.
The suspects held on Monday face charges including mafia association, extortion, holding illegal weapons, defrauding the state, tax evasion, according to police.
Apartments and luxury cars were also seized in Monday's operation which deployed over 500 police officers on the orders of anti-mafia prosecutors in Catanzaro, reported Corriere.
Sacco boasted a string of high-level political contacts and was photographed with the Pope, ex-Premier Matteo Renzi and billionaire media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, as well as Senate speaker Pietro Grasso and foreign minister Angelino Alfano.
He regularly presented reports on progress in fighting the 'Ndrangheta.
Scordio was paid a staggering 132,000 euros in 2007 alone for "spiritual assistance" to migrants, investigators said.
Monday's sting followed a probe that uncovered the Arena clan's grip on the local economy in Catanzaro and in Crotone, notably the online betting sector, where it enjoyed a "dominant position" and turned over tens of millions of euros of undeclared income, police said.
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