Crackdown on cocaine trafficking gang
ROME: Scores of people were arrested in Italy and other European countries yesterday in a raid on the ’Ndrangheta cocainetrafficking group that officials said was the largest sweep of its kind.
Those arrested were suspected of drug trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, said Italian police and Eurojust, the European agency that oversees judicial cooperation in crime investigations.
The arrests include highlevel members of the ’Ndrangheta, Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said. The group runs its global operations from a base in southern Italy.
The group ‘‘controls a substantial amount of the European cocaine traffic’’, Westerbeke said, speaking at a press conference at Eurojust headquarters in The Hague.
He said more than 3000kg of cocaine was seized in the Netherlands along with 140kg of ecstasy pills and ¤2 million in cash.
There had been 41 arrests in Italy, 21 in Germany, 14 in Belgium, five in the Netherlands, and two in Luxembourg, according to European police agency Europol. One person was also arrested in Suriname, a Dutch official said.
The ’Ndrangheta, centred in the Calabria region, is one of Italy’s three main organised crime groups, along with the Camorra, based in the Naples area, and Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia. ‘‘This is not just happening in Italy, it is happening on other countries,’’ warned Italian antimafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho, who said yesterday’s operation was just a ‘‘first step.’’
He said groups of the ’Ndrangheta and its allies had infiltrated ports around Europe to ease drug smuggling, and had ‘‘polluted’’ lawyers and accountants in numerous countries on their payrolls.