Police in Canada and Italy have arrested at least 23 suspected members of the 'ndrangheta mafia, in a joint operation. The 'ndrangheta, little known in Canada, had set up operations near Toronto.
Nine suspected top members of Italy's notorious 'ndrangheta organized crime syndicate have been arrested in Canada, Canadian and Italian law enforcement said Thursday, in a joint operation that also led to 14 arrests in southern Italy.
In Canada, police seized C$35 million ($26.8 million/€23.8 million) in assets from the Figliomeni crime family during three days of raids targeting 48 cafes, businesses and residences tied to the group in Toronto's northern suburbs.
Read more: Sicilian Mafia raids reveal links to US mob
Among those arrested was the suspected boss, Angelo Figliomeni, who along with eight other suspects was hit with a range of charges, including money laundering, running illegal gambling and defrauding the government.
Figliomeni is wanted by Italy and faces 20 years in prison there, but as a Canadian citizen he could not be extradited because association with the mafia in not a crime in Canada.
"These arrests signify the fall of power for the most significant 'ndrangheta crime family operating in York region," Chief Eric Jolliffe said at a news conference on Thursday morning.
Authorities allege the group gained illicit income from running illegal gambling operations at 11 cafes near Toronto and loan sharking.
York police Detective Sergeant Carl Mattinen said the so-called "Figliomeni Group" also laundered more than C$70 million through legal casinos in Canada.
The operation in southern Italy's Calabria region targeted the Muia crime family from the town of Siderno, Italian police said. The 14 suspects were arrested on charges of transnational mafia association, illegal weapons possession, fraudulent money transfers and other crimes.
The 'ndrangheta is Italy's most powerful mafia group. It is believed to be the number one trafficker of cocaine into Europe and in recent years has made inroads into Germany and North America. Originating in Calabria, in southern Italy, the secretive group consists of dozens clans that answer to senior leaders.
Italian police said "for the first time" they discovered that suspected Canadian 'ndrangheta members were authorized to meet and take decisions in Canada, rather than in Italy.
cw/cmk (dpa, Reuters)