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Europe

Dawn raids net more than 300 suspected Mafia members

Italian police on Tuesday arrested more than 300 people suspected of being connected to a Calabrian mafia group in the largest raid operation in recent years.

An unidentified person is escorted by two carabinieri in Reggio Calabria, southern Italy

The arrests targeted the growing Calabrian mafia

Early on Tuesday morning, Italian police conducted a crackdown on the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, arresting more than 300 people across the country, including Domenico Oppedisano, 80, who is believed to be its top boss.

The Italian authorities also apprehended Pino Neri, the mafia group's alleged leader in Lombardy, one of Europe's wealthiest regions.

Police also seized 60 million euros ($76.3 million) in cash and property.

The raid was one of the biggest launched against organized crime in recent years, said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni.

Police had "struck the heart" of the 'Ndrangheta, he added.

The 'Ndrangheta -- whose name comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty -- had become among the most dangerous criminal organisations in the world, according to the Italian interior ministry.

It's is estimated that the international crime organization has a annual turnover of 44 billion euros -- the equivalent of 3 percent of Italy's economy.

The charges against those arrested included mafia association, murder, arms offenses, trafficking, extortion and crimes linked to the awarding of public works contracts.

According to officials, around 3,000 police were involved in the investigation.

The 'Ndrangheta is regarded as the most powerful of Italy's four criminal syndicates, along with the Camorra in Naples, Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia.

It is based in the poor, southern region of Calabria, but is now said to play a major role in the international drug trade and organized crime across Europe.

Many of the arrests were made in northern Italy, where the group is making inroads and gaining influence. Some arrests were also made in the United States.

Author: Holly Fox and Nigel Tandy (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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