Mafia drug cartels hit in global police swoop

At least 84 people suspected of belonging to the notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia were arrested in raids in several European and Latin American countries Italian police said. T

Mafia raids across Europe target 'Ndrangheta group

Around 90 suspected mafia members have been arrested across Europe.

Masked police stand in an ice parlor in Duisburg, western Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 as authorities conduct coordinated raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the Italian mafia. Cocaine and ecstasy pills also were seized in Wednesday's raids.

A leading expert on the 'ndrangheta, Catanzaro-based Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, recently said the Calabrian-based 'ndrangheta syndicate has for years been buying up hotels, restaurants and other properties in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany to both launder some of the billions of dollars it rakes in through cocaine trafficking, as well as invest that money to start "clean" businesses and earn even more revenue.

Giovanni Bombardieri, an Italian prosecutor, said that "sophisticated investigative techniques" were used to monitor the crime group's operations and communications, and characterized the violence linked to 'Ndrangheta as tantamount to "carnage".

"Today we send a clear message to organized crime groups across Europe", Eurojust Vice President Filippo Spiezia said.

The "unprecedented" crackdown on the group based in Calabria, southern Italy, came just a day after Italian police arrested the new boss of the separate Sicilian mafia.

The Mafia group hails from Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy's boot, and has made substantial inroads in European countries. "There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized".

As well as arresting dozens of suspected mobsters in Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, police seized drugs and around 2 million euros ($2.3 million).

European police agency Europol called it a "decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world".

Germany's Der Spiegel reported that the German operation was mostly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia - a stronghold for the mafia - and involved 240 police and another 240 support staff from the federal criminal agency.

"They are invisible", Cafiero de Raho added.

Settimino Mineo, center, who allegedly took over as the Palermo head of Cosa Nostra, is escorted by Italian Carabinieri police.

Dutch outlet NOS said that the 'Ndrangheta is known to operate its drug smuggling through the country's vibrant flower-trading industry.

Jeweller 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 a year ago.

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