Sun, Oct 23, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Scores arrested in Europe in crime network roundup

AP , ROME

Police said on Friday they had arrested scores of people in Italy and elsewhere in Europe in a crackdown on a crime syndicate, days after a local politician was fatally shot at a polling station in a killing blamed on the group.

A total of 61 people were arrested in separate operations over two days, according to police in the southern Calabria region, where the 'ndrangheta crime syndicate is based.

The arrests were not linked to Sunday's killing of center-left politician Francesco Fortugno, but authorities billed them as the state's response to the crime.

Fortugno, a center-left politician, was shot and killed as he voted in a nationwide primary in the small Calabrian town of Locri. No arrests had been made in connection with his death.

The government was planning a series of anti-crime initiatives to combat the syndicate, including increased police presence in the region and additional surveillance of suspects, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said.

Police said they arrested 42 people in Italy, Spain, France Belgium, the Netherlands, and Serbia-Montenegro.

It was not immediately clear how many were arrested in Italy. All the suspects were held for alleged drug-trafficking -- believed to be one of 'ndrangheta's main activities.

Those arrested included around 15 from Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, and 10 come from Serbia-Montenegro, police said. The others were Italians, mostly from Calabria, on the southeastern tip of the Italian mainland.

The group was believed to have smuggled cocaine from several Latin American countries through Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, Giardina said. He said searches turned up 50kg of cocaine and several guns.

Also on Friday, three people were arrested in the Calabria region for their alleged role in the 2004 murder of 'ndrangheta boss Antonio Dragone, police said. The operation was also aimed at cracking down on extortion.

Authorities say the 'ndrangheta is becoming more powerful in Italy than the Sicilian Mafia.

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