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Police arrest 84 in European crackdown on Italian mob

AP  |  The Hague (Netherlands) 

In an investigation that underscored an Italian syndicate's role as a leading player in international cocaine trafficking, police in four countries have arrested at least 84 suspected mobsters in a series of carefully coordinated raids.

Those detained in the raids Wednesday allegedly work for the Italian 'network that traffics in cocaine on a global scale.

"It's almost a cliche, but the operation carried out today confirms again the great danger of the 'ndrangheta, not just in drug trafficking, where it's the undisputed leader, but (also) in the financial sphere," said Francesco Ratta, a top in the southern Italian region of

"It's an evolved 'ndrangheta, that we can say knows no borders ... It's an 'ndrangheta that day by day changes its skin ... but still keeps ties" to its home base in

European officials announced the arrests at headquarters of Eurojust, the prosecutors agency set up to bolster the fight against cross-border in the 28-nation bloc. and EU police agency coordinated the raids.

"Today we send a clear message to organised groups across Europe," said Filippo Spiezia, of Eurojust, the EU prosecution agency that coordinated the raids.

"They are not the only ones able to operate across borders; so are Europe's judiciary and " As well as arresting dozens of suspected mobsters in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, police seized drugs and around 2 million euros ($2.3 million).

It was the second significant mob takedown in as many days. On Tuesday, Italian authorities said they had dismantled the rebuilt upper echelons of the Mafia in the Sicilian capital of Palermo by arresting 46 people, including the man presumed to have taken over as provincial kingpin.

Wednesday's raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation codenamed Pollino against the powerful 'group on allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, said.

The 'ndrangheta is Italy's most powerful criminal organisation, eclipsing by far Sicily's Cosa Nostra or the area Camorra.

said the massive probe was the biggest of its kind in About four tons of cocaine were traced during the investigation. Cocaine and ecstasy pills also were seized in Wednesday's raids.

hailed the close cooperation between forces and Eurojust's coordination, saying it was an important new crime-fighting tactic that allowed investigators in different countries to share information in real time.

But Italy's top Mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, also sounded a note of caution, saying the raids only scratched the surface of the powerful 'ndrangheta, whose tentacles and illicit activities, including huge cocaine trafficking operations, were spread all over the world.

Speaking in The Hague, Cafiero de Raho said the arrests "are nothing for 'ndrangheta. There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized." A leading expert on the 'ndrangheta, Catanzaro-based Nicola Gratteri, recently said the Calabrian-based 'ndrangheta syndicate has for years been buying up hotels, restaurants and other properties in Belgium, the Netherlands, and 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.

The 'ndrangheta "is the most important group in the world," said Gen. Alessandro Barbera, who commands the investigative unit of Italy's financial police corps. "Wherever there is great business to be done, there is always the 'ndrangheta." Eurojust said Italian authorities arrested 41 suspects, mainly in

In Germany, federal police said there had been multiple arrests in the early morning raids. The focus was on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders the and Belgium, and to the south.

Among the 'ndrangheta clans hardest hit by Wednesday's raids was the Pelle-Vottari crime family, investigators said. That is the same clan involved in the bloody feud that culminated in six people being shot dead at an Italian eatery in the German city of in August 2007.

Five suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, where prosecutors got the ball rolling for the investigation in 2014 with probes into two Italian restaurants, and more suspects were detained just over the border in

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

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 03:35 IST