Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 7 News List

European authorities crack down on Italian mafia

AP and AFP, BERLIN and THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Authorities in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and South America yesterday launched coordinated raids in a crackdown on the Italian mafia.

The raids were the culmination of an investigation codenamed “Pollino” that was launched in 2016 against the ’Ndrangheta criminal group on allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, said Eurojust, the European agency that fights cross-border organized crime.

In Germany, federal police said there had been multiple arrests in early morning raids on premises linked to the crime group.

The focus was on restaurants, offices and apartments in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Der Spiegel reported.

It said 47 suspects had been targeted and 65 premises were being searched, adding that searches were also under way in Spain.

Italian police said that 90 people had been arrested so far in the operation targeting the ’Ndrangheta group and its “projections across South America.”

The vast operation was carried out by Italy’s anti-mafia and anti-terrorism force in collaboration with German, Belgian and Dutch authorities, it said.

Europol said it was a “decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world.”

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 organization has continued to extend its reach.

It has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra in influence thanks to its control of the cocaine trade, and is the sole mafia organization to operate on all continents, according to prosecutors.

Dutch NOS television said the ’Ndrangheta were mainly active in the Netherlands in drug smuggling through the country’s huge flower export market.

Belgian media said the arrests in that country were concentrated in the Limburg area.

Yesterday’s operations came a day after Italian police arrested new Cosa Nostra boss Settimino Mineo and dozens of other suspects in Sicily in a major swoop.

Mineo was detained along with at least 45 others just before he was due to be appointed official heir to mafia boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina, who died in prison in November last year.

Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero de Raho, said the election of Mineo was significant, because it showed that the center of power of Cosa Nostra had shifted to Palermo.

Those arrested are suspected of mafia association, extortion, weapons violations and other charges, police said.

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