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Police swoop on mafia suspects across Europe

06 December 2018

Dozens of members of a notorious branch of the Italian mafia have been arrested after a series of raids across several European countries.

Almost 90 people including high-ranking members of the powerful organised crime syndicate accused of drug trafficking and money laundering were arrested in coordinated raids in six countries, European Union justice agency Eurojust said.

'Judicial and law enforcement authorities from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Belgium are now executing arrests and seizures against a Ndrangheta criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, ' European legal cooperation organisation Eurojust said in a statement.

While the Sicilian Mafia was made famous in films and television, 'Ndrangheta is thought to control as much as 80 percent of Europe's cocaine trade, and with some 6,000 members, is a substantial and far-spread force in European crime. More than three tons of cocaine and about 300 pounds of ecstasy were seized.

"They are in charge of drug trafficking in Germany, and they launder money by reinvesting it in legitimate businesses like restaurants", said Christian Hoppe, chief criminal director of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office.

The group has links with drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico, Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho said in The Hague.

Filippo Spiezia, vice-president of the EU's judicial agency Eurojust, said: "Today we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe".

Police arrested dozens of people in Europe and South America in a "decisive hit" against Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia group, officials said Thursday.

Officials hailed Wednesday's operation as a serious blow to the group.

The 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, which comes from Italy's Calabria region, is widely believed to be the most powerful Italian mafia organization, with massive rackets in money laundering and cocaine dealing.

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

In total 41 people were arrested in Italy, 21 in Germany, 14 in Belgium, five in the Netherlands and two in Luxembourg, with operations still underway, Eurojust said. His arrest was among the 46 people taken into custody.

Dutch outlet NOS said that the 'Ndrangheta is known to operate its drug smuggling through the country's vibrant flower-trading industry.

Wednesday's raids come a day after the new suspected head of the Cosa Nostra and 45 other alleged gangsters were arrested.

Just under half of the suspects were detained in Italy.

Police swoop on mafia suspects across Europe