At least 90 suspected mafia members linked to Europe’s most notorious organised crime syndicate have been arrested a mass, coordinated raids across Europe.
European police forces seized around 2 million euros ($3.1 million) in cash during the raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, targeting the so called Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia – Italy’s most powerful criminal organisation.
The arrests followed a complicated, two-year police investigation co-ordinated by Eurojust, the European prosecution agency that fights cross-border organised crime.
Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, praised the “extraordinary nature of this operation”.
He congratulated the police forces involved, but also sounded a note of caution. “Obviously we have not defeated ‘Ndrangheta with this operation – ‘Ndrangheta is extremely powerful and extremely rich,” he said.
Eurojust labelled the operation – codenamed Pollino – the biggest of its kind in all of Europe.
The culmination of the investigation takes the total amount of cocaine seized to about four tonnes, ecstasy pills were also found in the police raids.
“Today we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe,” Eurojust vice president Filippo Spiezia said.
“They are not the only ones able to operate across borders; so are Europe’s judiciary and law enforcement communities,” he added.
Eurojust confirmed 41 arrests were also made in Calabria and Catanzaro of Southern Italy.
In Germany, federal police said there had been multiple arrests in early morning raids on premises linked to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
Five suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, where prosecutors got the ball rolling for the investigation in 2014 with probes into two Italian restaurants.
More people were detained over the border in Belgium.
Italian police hailed the co-operation between European police forces, saying it was an important new crime-fighting tactic that allowed investigators in different countries to share information in real time.
Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italian anti-mafia and anti-terrorism national prosecutor, sounded a note of caution, saying the raids only scratched the surface of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta, whose tentacles and illicit activities spread all over the world.
Speaking in The Hague, Mr De Raho said the arrests are “nothing” for the ‘Ndrangheta group.
“There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized,” he said.