ROME - Police across Europe and in South America have carried out a massive operation targeting members of the Italian 'Ndrangheta organized crime group, with agents arresting scores of suspects wanted for cocaine trafficking and money-laundering, among other crimes.
In the largest-ever sweep against the organized crime group, 90 people were arrested in Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. One person was also apprehended in Suriname. The coordinated dawn raids were carried out in locations that had been identified by the police in an investigation codenamed "Pollino" that was launched in 2016.
Italy's national anti-mafia and anti-terrorism prosecutor, Federico Cafiero de Raho, speaking in the Hague, said the arrests were nothing for the 'Ndrangheta, because thousands of people affiliated with the clan should be arrested.
De Raho stressed that the 'Ndrangheta has cells that operate and cooperate with each other in a network that covers all of Europe. Officials said 3 to 4 tons of cocaine were seized, 140 kilos of ecstasy pills and 2 million euros in cash. They said the 'Ndrangheta was laundering money in Italian restaurants and ice cream parlors.
Officials provided details of the maxi operation at the headquarters of Eurojust, the European agency in charge of judicial cooperation in criminal investigations.
Filippo Spiezia, vice president of Eurojust, explained the purpose of the press conference, the first of its kind for an operational case.
"To inform you about an unprecedented and extraordinary result that we have reached today with a joint judicial action that has been carried out in different member states in order to fight 'Ndrangheta, one of the most powerful organizations - criminal organizations - in the world," he said.
The 'Ndrangheta has its base in the southern Italian region of Calabria, but its tentacles extend all over the world. De Raho said the group has infiltrated ports in Europe to ease drug smuggling. He added that coordination among the police forces in different European countries is essential in order to combat these types of criminal activities.
Tuesday's operation came one day after Italian police arrested Settimino Mineo, the suspected new "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, along with 45 other alleged mobsters.