Police arrest dozens of suspected mobsters in global operation

Police arrest dozens of suspected mobsters in global operation

Wednesday's operation came a day after Italian police arrested the suspected new head of the Sicilian Mafia and 45 other alleged gangsters, dealing a major blow to the mob as it tried to rebuild after years of setbacks.

The raids were the culmination of an investigation code named Pollino that was launched in 2016 against the 'Ndrangheta criminal group on allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, said Eurojust, the European prosecution agency that fights cross-border organized crime, which co-ordinated the operation.

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

The 'Ndrangheta, a mafia organisation that operates out of the Calabria region of southern Italy, is one of the largest crime syndicates in the world, and is thought to make billions of pounds through cocaine trafficking every year. They are accused of committing "serious crimes" including activities linked to worldwide drug trafficking, Italian police said in a statement.

Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy's chief anti-mafia prosecutor, hailed the "extraordinary nature of this operation", but warned that the organization is "extremely powerful and extremely rich", so they are far from defeated.

Authorities said they conducted raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the 'Ndrangheta, a southern Italy-based organized crime group.

In Germany, the raids constituted the country's greatest strike against the mafia, arresting 14 suspects.

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

Early-morning raids took place in Italy, the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria, as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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".

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

A 2012 police report showed the Ndrangheta could have as many as a hundred active members in this country.

Jeweller Mineo, 80, was detained 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 past year.

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