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Police target 'Ndrangheta mafia in raids across Europe

Police in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium have arrested several members of the Calabrian mafia. The 'Ndrangheta is heavily involved in Europe's cocaine trade.

Joint investigative teams involving police in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are targeting members of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia. Around 90 arrests were made; 4,000 kilograms (8,820 pounds) of cocaine and 140 kilograms of ecstasy pills were seized.

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

The raids follow years of investigative work, which also involved officers from Switzerland. Operation Pollino is being coordinated by the EU's Judicial Cooperation Unit, Eurojust.

The investigation also involved operations in the South American country of Suriname.

'Biggest' anti-mafia operation in Germany

In Germany, police arrested 14 suspects and seized large amounts of cash and several cars that were allegedly used to transport drugs, according to the Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) in Wiesbaden.

Some 490 kilograms of cocaine were found in Germany during the raids, the BKA said in a statement.

One of the main suspects in Germany was a 45-year-old Italian man who was arrested at his home in the town of Pulheim, near the western city of Cologne. The man owned a local restaurant in the town and is accused of being a member of the criminal organization and being deeply involved in trafficking cocaine.

"I'm completely shocked, as are others around here. It's the first place I go to if I want something good to eat around here, and I would never have expected anything like this," Bernhard Inden, a 77-year-old pensioner who lives near the suspect's restaurant, told DW.

Federal investigators believe that the group purchased real estate in Germany - particularly restaurants - in order to launder the money from their drug trade.

It's the biggest police operation against a mafia clan by German police on German soil, Der Spiegel news magazine reported. More than 65 locations were searched, the operation involved more than 440 officers in Germany alone.

'Ndrangheta - the most powerful clan

The 'Ndrangheta is seen as the most powerful Italian mafia organization, trumping Sicily's Cosa Nostra and Naples' Camorra.

It is a leading force in money laundering and the cocaine trade. The reports suggest that the raids are aimed at the Mammoliti and Giorgi families, who are part of the crime syndicate.

Italian prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho told reporters on Monday that he expects an ongoing investigation into 'Ndrangheta and that what the arrests made so far are "nothing to them."

"We should be arresting thousands...their wealth is enormous," he added. he pointed out that the mafia clan's methods are sophisticated and often involve respected members of society like lawyers and accountants acting for them.

They also constantly buy and sell cafés, restaurants and other establishments, with the high fluctuation making it hard to pin them down.

"They are invisible," Cafiero de Raho added.

The 'Ndrangheta was also involved in the 2007 Duisburg murders, where six people were killed. The killings are linked to a longrunning feud between two 'Ndrangheta families, Nirta-Strangio and Pelle-Vottari.

On Tuesday, Italian police arrested an alleged Sicilian mafia boss, Settimino Mineo, believed to be the new head of the Cosa Nostra clan.

[Source: DW, Germany, 05Dec18]

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Corruption and Organized Crime
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