Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Italian police launch sweeping raids in mafia crackdown

AFP, ROME

Italian police launched sweeping raids on Friday in a vast anti-mafia operation whose targets included top organized crime bosses accused of extortion, drug trafficking and murder.

In “one of the largest operations ever carried out” in Rome, the blitz struck “a deadly blow to the mafia cell which had been operating in the capital for years,” the police said.

Amid accusations of drug trafficking, usury, extortion and control of the slot machine market, 51 people who helped lead “illegal activities” in Rome and the suburb of Ostia on the coast were served with arrest warrants, police spokesman Mario Viola said.

POWERFUL

A second operation targeted members of the immensely powerful ’Ndrangheta criminal organization in the city of Catanzaro in the southern region of Calabria, Viola said. There, the arrest warrants concerned 50 to 70 people, “including entrepreneurs, politicians and lawyers,” he said.

About 500 police officers took part in the Rome raids — along with a helicopter, dog units and maritime police — which aimed in particular to root out gangsters with links to Sicilian mafia who have infiltrated the Italian capital, buying up bars and restaurants as fronts for criminal activities.

“The mobsters are very dangerous. They use powerful arms, not only to commit murder, but also to settle scores or knee-cap people in Rome,” said Renato Cortese, head of the police rapid response team in Rome.

The warrants were the result of a long investigation during which detectives used wiretaps to uncover “every criminal step in the mafia organization,” police said, from the adoption of new members into the fold to dirty deals between bosses over territory.

Gangsters were also caught planning murders considered “necessary to guarantee and keep control of” profit-making activities in the area.

MOBSTERS

The mobsters involved come from “the beating heart of the Roman and Sicilian crime world,” including key members of the Fasciani and Triassi D’Agati families, “which have for years shared up criminal business, particularly along the coast,” police said.

“For practically the past 20 years, members of the Fasciani and Triassi clans have carried out their business in Rome, dividing up the territory in a sort of mafia pax, under which each was able to calmly carry out its own illegal trafficking,” they said.

“While the Fasciani forced shop-owners to pay protection money, the Triassi had a monopoly over drugs and arms,” prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone said.

The blitz also flushed out one of the historic bosses of the Triassi family, Vincenzo, who was arrested along with his wife in Tenerife and incarcerated in a Spanish prison. Two other suspects were rounded up and arrested in Barcelona.

Anti-mafia association Libera praised the police for “this first hard hit” against the mafia in Rome, warning that the clans “have not just infiltrated but have put down roots” in the region.

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