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Major raids target Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia

July 5, 2017

Italian police have carried out major raids targeting the 'Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra mafia. The 'Ndrangheta is Italy's most powerful mafia organization and is active in some 30 countries.

Italien Sizilien Polizei in Palermo
Image: Imago/L. Carballo

Some 116 alleged mobsters of the Italy's 'Ndrangheta were arrested on Tuesday, the Carabinieri police said, in the largest coordinated operation on Italy's most powerful mafia organization.

More than 1,000 police backed by helicopters and sniffer dogs were involved in the raids, which led to the arrest of 23 clan heads of the Calabria-based criminal organization.

"We have acted against the most important family heads, all of them ringleaders," said Federico Cafiero de Raho, the state prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, the capital of the Calabria region.

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Police chief Giuseppe Governale described the coordinated police operation as striking at the "beating heart" of the 'Ndrangheta at the national and international level.

Investigations that led to Tuesday's arrest found the 'Ndrangheta had set up parallel courts to settle disputes and rigged public contracts, including even one to build a local court house in Calabria.

The 'Ndrangheta is Italy's most powerful mafia organization, having overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra. The Carabinieri on Tuesday also conducted a large-scale raid against the Cosa Nostra, arresting 54 people accused of organized crime membership, drug trafficking, extortion and robbery.

The 'Ndrangheta engages in extortion, murder, drugs and arms trafficking, money laundering and widespread corruption. 

The group is considered to have "absolute supremacy" over cocaine smuggling into Europe, Italy's national anti-mafia organization said in its annual report last month.

The same report said 'Ndrangheta "is present in all key sectors of politics, public administration and the economy," often using corruption over violence to pursue its objectives. 

Active in over 30 countries, it has also gained a "stable presence" in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, as well as "by now complete" infiltration in Canada and the United States.

"We are starting to make some countries understand that the 'Ndrangheta is an extremely dangerous phenomenon," Italy's anti-mafia czar Franco Roberti told the country's senate last month.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office BKA has described the 'Ndrangheta as Germany's dominant crime syndicate.

The group has suffered a number of recent blows. Tuesday's raids come less than a month after a fugitive Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia boss charged with international drug trafficking was arrested in Brazil. 

That arrest followed the capture of top 'Ndrangheta crime boss Giuseppe Giorgi in a bunker inside his home in San Luca, Calabria.  He had been on the run for 26 years.

In late May, police in Italy and Germany arrested 22 people running a cocaine trafficking racket linked to the 'Ndrangheta.

cw/bw (AFP, dpa)