Net closes on big­gest mafia group

The Herald (South Africa) - - World -

Po­lice ar­rested dozens of peo­ple in Europe and South Amer­ica in a de­ci­sive hit against Italy’s no­to­ri­ous ‘Ndrangheta mafia group, of­fi­cials have said.

The in­ter­na­tional sweep in­volved po­lice in Ger­many, Italy, the Nether­lands and Bel­gium work­ing to­gether against the pow­er­ful or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cate based in south­ern Italy.

The group was in­volved in “co­caine traf­fick­ing, money laun­der­ing, bribery and vi­o­lence”, the Euro­pean ju­di­cial agency Euro­just said.

It said the op­er­a­tion co­de­named “Pollino” fol­lowed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that had be­gun in 2016, and it would give more de­tails later.

Ital­ian po­lice said 90 peo­ple had been ar­rested so far in the op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing the ‘Ndrangheta group and its “pro­jec­tions across South Amer­ica”.

The vast anti-mafia op­er­a­tion had been car­ried out by Italy’s anti-mafia and anti-ter­ror­ism force in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ger­man, Bel­gian and Dutch author­i­ties, it said.

Ital­ian me­dia said key or­gan­ised crime fam­ily mem­bers had been tar­geted.

The Euro­pean po­lice agency, Europol, said it was a de­ci­sive hit against one of the most pow­er­ful Ital­ian crim­i­nal net­works in the world.

The ‘Ndrangheta – which de­rives its mean­ing from the Greek word for “hero­ism” – is made up of nu­mer­ous vil­lage and fam­ily-based clans in Cal­abria, the ru­ral, moun­tain­ous and un­der­de­vel­oped “toe” of Italy’s boot.

De­spite in­tense po­lice at­ten­tion and fre­quent ar­rests, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has con­tin­ued to ex­tend its reach.

It has sur­passed Si­cily’s Cosa Nos­tra and Naples’s Camorra in in­flu­ence thanks to its con­trol of the co­caine trade, and is the sole mafia or­gan­i­sa­tion to op­er­ate on all con­ti­nents, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

The Europe-wide op­er­a­tion

The ‘Ndrangheta is the sole mafia or­gan­i­sa­tion to op­er­ate on all con­ti­nents

came a day af­ter Ital­ian po­lice ar­rested new Cosa Nos­tra boss Set­timino Mi­neo and dozens of other sus­pects in Si­cily in a ma­jor swoop.

Mi­neo, 80, was de­tained along with at least 45 oth­ers just be­fore he was due to be ap­pointed of­fi­cial heir to no­to­ri­ous mafia boss Toto Ri­ina, who died in prison in 2017.

In Ger­many, Wed­nes­day’s op­er­a­tion fo­cused on res­tau­rants, of­fices and apart­ments linked to the group, fo­cused on the North Rhine-West­phalia re­gion, Der Spiegel re­ported.

Dutch NOS tele­vi­sion said the ‘Ndrangheta were mainly ac­tive in the Nether­lands in drug smug­gling through the coun­try’s huge flower ex­port mar­ket.

Pic­ture: AFP

MA­JOR SWOOP: Set­timino Mi­neo, jeweller and new head of the Si­cil­ian mafia, is es­corted by po­lice af­ter his ar­rest. Po­lice also swooped on dozens of other sus­pects in Si­cily in a ma­jor coup

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