German and Italian police arrested more than 100 people on Wednesday in a crackdown on the Italian ‘Ndrangheta organised crime group, German public prosecutors and police authorities in the two countries said.
The ‘Ndrangheta has its roots in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, and has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in the country – and one of the largest criminal networks in the world.
The arrests were part of a coordinated probe by investigators in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, German authorities said.
The suspects are accused of money laundering, criminal tax evasion, fraud and smuggling of drugs, mafia-type criminal association, possession and trafficking of weapons.
Italy’s Carabinieri police carried out 108 arrests in various cities across the country in an investigation based in the southern city of Reggio Calabria, they said in a statement. A further 15 people were detained on the orders of police in the northwestern port of Genoa.
German police also arrested dozens of suspects in early morning raids.
State police in Bavaria said the arrests were the result of more than three years of an investigation dubbed “Operation Eureka”.
It said that Italian and Belgian investigators believe that the crime group smuggled close to 25 tonnes of cocaine between October 2019 and January 2022 and funnelled more than 22 million euros ($24.2 million) from Calabria to Belgium, the Netherlands and South America.
Among those arrested in Germany were four people in Bavaria, 15 in North Rhine-Westphalia, and 10 in the southwestern state of Rhineland Palatinate. Police seized potential evidence at dozens of locations including homes and offices.
Two suspects who were under investigation in the western state of Saarland, were arrested in Italy. Police did not identify them, saying only that one was 47 years old and the other 25.
A man was also arrested in Spain’s southern city of Malaga as part of the coordinated investigation, Spanish police said, without giving further details.
German prosecutors and the Carabinieri police said they would hold two separate news conferences later on Wednesday.
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