THE HAGUE: Police arrested dozens of suspected mobsters in Europe and South America on Wednesday in a huge international swoop targeting Italy’s notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan, officials said.
Nearly 90 people including high-ranking members of the powerful organised crime syndicate accused of drug trafficking and money laundering were arrested in coordinated raids in six countries, EU justice agency Eurojust said.
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.
Hundreds of police took part in Wednesday’s operation, seizing four tonnes of cocaine, 120 kilos of ecstasy and two million euros in cash across Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Suriname.
“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. “They are not the only ones able to operate across borders; so are Europe’s judiciary and law enforcement communities.”
He said the “unprecedented and extraordinary result”, the fruit of a two-year operation, targeted “dangerous members of the ‘Ndrangheta family deeply involved in drug trafficking and money laundering”.
The ‘Ndrangheta — which derives its meaning from the Greek word for heroism — is made up of numerous village and family-based clans in Calabria, the rural, mountainous and under-developed “toe” of Italy’s boot.
Despite intense police attention and frequent arrests, the organisation has continued to extend its reach.
It has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra in influence thanks to control of the cocaine trade and is the sole mafia organisation to operate on all continents, according to anti-mafia prosecutors.
Officials hailed Wednesday’s operation — dubbed “Operation Pollina” — as a serious blow to the group.
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.
Italian police said the sweep targeted the ‘Ndrangheta and its “projections across South America”.
Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho said the operations would affect the ‘Ndrangheta’s drug trafficking operations around the world, including Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018