December 5, 2018 8:08 pm
Berlin – More than 80 people with suspected links to the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia – considered one of the world’s largest organized crime groups – have been arrested during raids in six European countries and in the South American country of Suriname.
Some 140 kilograms of ecstasy pills and 3 000-4 000 kilos of cocaine were seized during the operation, Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said at a press conference in The Hague on Wednesday.
Eurojust – a European judicial cooperation body – said that among those reported arrested were “high-ranking members of the Mafia network.”
Authorities in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg worked together on the operation with the code name “Pollino,” coordinated by the Eurojust from 2016, assisted by Europol.
In the biggest operation of its kind to date in Europe, raids took place early Wednesday, spanning locations in those five countries and Suriname.
Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) also said raids had been carried out on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
Some 2 million euros (2.3 million dollars) in criminal assets was seized, Eurojust Vice-President Filippo Spiezia said in The Hague.
The ‘Ndrangheta controls a network of restaurants and ice cream parlours throughout several European countries, which it uses to launder money and traffic drugs, according to Westerbeke.
The Mafia group hails from Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy’s boot, and has made substantial inroads in European countries. It is considered Europe’s leading smuggler of cocaine.
Pollino is the name of a mountain range and national park in Calabria.
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.”
The group has links with drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico, Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho said in The Hague.
In Germany, 14 arrests were made, German prosecutor Horst Bien said. Most raids took place in the western state of North Rhine Westphalia, but also in the south, in Bavaria.
Fourteen people were detained in Belgium, the federal police announced, according to the Belga news agency.
At 41, the highest number of arrests took place in Italy, mainly in the Calabria and Catanzaro regions, according to Eurojust.
Two arrests were made in Luxembourg, and five in the Netherlands, Eurojust said.
The operation’s success sent a “clear message to organized crime groups across Europe,” Spiezia said.
“By working together and using the unique tools at our disposal in the EU,” he added, “we are able to detect, investigate and prosecute this kind of serious organized crime.”
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