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Italian police smash mafia drug ring

January 20, 2015

Rome police have seized more then 600 kilograms of cocaine and hashish and arrested dozens of suspected members of the infamous 'Ndrangheta clan. The organization has tried to monopolize drug trade in Rome, said police.

Symbolbild Ndrangheta in Rom ARCHIV
Image: picture alliance/ROPI

Over 30 alleged mobsters have been arrested in a crackdown on one of the most powerful clans of the Italian mafia on Tuesday. The alleged representatives of the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate were in direct contact with Moroccan and Colombian cartels, and had attempted to take control of Rome's cocaine trade, police sources said.

In addition to the narcotics which were seized on Tuesday, police said they had documented the trafficking of another 1,500 kilograms of cocaine and hashish (about 3,300 pounds). Police also seized an arsenal of weapons.

"They have a presence in Rome. We can't yet say they made it a base but it is no less dangerous for that," Rome prosecutor Michele Prestipino told a press conference.

'The strongest' global traffickers

'Ndrangheta is regarded by some as the most powerful Mafia organization in Italy, controlling most of Europe's cocaine trade. Although still based in the poor region of Calabria, the "toe" of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula, the crime syndicate has been increasing its activity in Rome and northern Italy, thus reaching the areas where the influence of the Mafia is traditionally weaker.

"The 'Ndrangheta considers Rome an integral part of its criminal project. Some members have said: 'Rome is the future,'" Prestipino told reporters. "The Rome marketplace is strategic and helps the clans accumulate criminal and economic power."

The crime syndicate has also made significant moves to increase its influence in northern Europe, Latin America and the United States. In 2012, former police chief Antonio Manganelli described the Calabrian mob as "the strongest" global drug trafficker.

Aiming for monopoly

As a part of its push to take over the drug market in Rome, the gang arranged a hit on a rival mob boss two years ago. After the alleged assassins were discovered, one of them provided information vital to Tuesday's arrests, Prestipino said.

The gang's ambition was to establish itself "as the broker for the other criminal groups operating in the same territory," according to the police sources.

The Sicilian Mafia, long considered the most influential crime organization in Italy, has suffered heavy blows by the police and the prosecutors in the past two decades. At the same time, the 'Ndrangheta has grown in strength by becoming one of Europe's biggest cocaine importers.

The name 'Ndrangheta comes from the Greek word for courage or loyalty, and prospective members are required to take an elaborate oath in order to join the organization.

dj/bw (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)