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Italy, Germany and Europol in fresh crackdown on 'ndrangheta activities in Europe

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Financial police stand guart outside a modified courthouse in Calabria, Italy at the opening of a 'maxi-trial' of more than 350 alleged 'ndrangheta members in January
Financial police stand guart outside a modified courthouse in Calabria, Italy at the opening of a 'maxi-trial' of more than 350 alleged 'ndrangheta members in January   -   Copyright  Andrea Rosa/AP
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More than 30 people have been arrested in Italy and Germany in a fresh crackdown on the 'ndrangheta organised crime syndicate.

Close to 800 police officers and tax officials were involved in the joint raids on Wednesday, which saw 31 suspects taken into custody and the homes of 65 others searched.

Eurojust and Europol announced the move was a follow-up to December 2018’s Operation Pollino, during which 84 people were arrested in Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Dozens more suspected 'ndrangheta members, including police officers and businessmen, were detained in a second wave of arrests in January 2021.

The latest action saw hundreds of thousands of euros seized alongside weapons, cocaine, two luxury cars, and jewellery. Bank accounts and other assets belonging to the suspects have been frozen.

In a statement published on Wednesday morning, Europol published footage of some of the raids, adding that the Italian and German authorities had investigated two discreet strands of the gang’s operations: drug trafficking and money laundering.

“During a period of at least several years,” it said, “the OCG [organised crime group] is suspected of having organised the trade in cocaine between Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain using encrypted EncroChat and Sky ECC communication tools.

“A string of building and hospitality companies was allegedly used to launder the proceedings in Italy. The investigations in Germany focus in particular on drug trafficking and potential tax avoidance.”

The operation was carried out on the ground in Italy by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA) together with state police, the Carabinieri and sniffer dog units, overseen by the Public Prosecutor of Turin.

In Germany, it was led by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Konstanz together with the Criminal Police of Friedrichshafen and the Economic and Financial Police of Ulm.

Two more ‘ndrangheta clans targeted after January maxi-trial opening

‘Ndrangheta is an organised crime syndicate with operations all over Europe and other countries around the world. It is said to now be the most powerful mafia in Italy due to its global drug trafficking operations.

The mob made headlines in January this year when a 'maxi-trial' involving around 350 defendants, 900 prosecution witnesses and 600 lawyers opened in the 'ndrangheta stronghold of Calabria.

Those accused in the biggest organised crime trial in decades face charges that include murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering. It took three hours for their names to be read out in a preliminary hearing and the case is expected to last at least a year.

Investigations on the case that opened in January focused on the Mancuso clan in the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia.

The latest arrests in Italy and Germany targeted two other powerful alleged clans of the mafia group, the Agresta and the Giorgi families, both of which also hail from Calabria.

Ahead of the around 15 arrests made in Italy the Public Prosecutor of Turin also issued precautionary custody orders for properties, vehicles and bank accounts of suspected 'ndrangheta affiliates.

These included a café bar and construction company in Turin, an estate agent chain, and a tobacco shop in Volpiano. The total value of these assets runs to millions of euros.