Italian police have arrested more than 300 people in a major operation against the southern ‘Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate. In one of the most extensive law enforcement operations ever, about 3,000 officers made arrests in 12 Italian regions, as well as in Switzerland, Germany and Bulgaria. Those arrested face a variety of charges, including murder, extortion, usury, money laundering, drug trafficking, corruption, and belonging to a criminal syndicate.
’Ndrangheta, based in the southern region of Calabria, is Italy’s most powerful mafia group, surpassing the Cosa Nostra, based in Sicily. The group is made up of numerous village and family-based clans based in the rural, mountainous region that includes Italy’s boot. ’Ndrangheta controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade, produced in Latin America and smuggled into Europe via north Africa and southern Italy. According to the prosecutor in the case, the group buys tourist businesses, including hotels, bars, and restaurants, to launder the money. The group is also involved in providing funeral services.
The arrests included Luigi Mancuso, whom officials described as the head of the clan, along with dozens of politicians, lawyers, and accountants. The municipal police chief and head of town planning in Vibo Valentia was among those arrested, as well as a former member of the Italian Parliament from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party; the president of the Calabrian mayor’s association, and a former member of the Democratic Party’s national assembly. Police also seized property and cash valued at 15 million euros ($16.7 million), including 11 handguns, 12 rifles or machine guns, and a significant amount of ammunition.
Including those already in prison, the operation targeted 416 people. Seventy of those arrested are being held under house arrest. This was the biggest operation since the operation targeting the Sicilian mafia in Palermo between 1986 and 1992. In that case, prosecutors ultimately indicted 475 alleged criminals.