Police arrest 84 in European crackdown on Italian mob

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

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

Members of the notorious 'Ndrangheta Italian mafia have been targeted in a simultaneous police sting in Europe.

Almost 90 people including high-ranking members of the powerful organised crime syndicate accused of drug trafficking and money laundering were arrested in coordinated raids in six countries, European Union justice agency Eurojust said.

Scores of suspected members of Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia have been arrested in coordinated raids across Europe.

Eurojust described it as one of the most "powerful criminal networks in the world", and said it "controls much of Europe's cocaine trade, combined with systematic money laundering, bribery and violent acts".

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) also said raids had been carried out on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

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. Italian authorities say that further raids were conducted in South America.

Officials hailed Wednesday's operation as a serious blow to the group. His arrest was among the 46 people taken into custody.

In January police arrested almost 170 people, including mayors and businessmen and local administrators, in similar raids across Italy and Germany.

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

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said they had also probed ice cream parlours, adding that together with restaurants "the suspicion is that the mafia organisation is laundering money through these establishments and they are used as a cover for their criminal organisations".

In Germany, the raids - which are part of Operation Pollino - are focused on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the mafia has traditionally had a large presence.

"They are invisible", Cafiero de Raho added.

'Ndrangheta is one of five major world crime organizations operating out of Italy.

Police swooped just a day after the alleged "godfather" of the Sicilian mafia was arrested, along with 45 other suspected mobsters.

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 previous year.

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