Over 100 arrested in European swoop on ‘Ndrangheta crime group
ROME/BRUSSELS, May 3 (Reuters) - Police across Europe on Wednesday arrested more than 100 people in a crackdown on members of the Italian 'Ndrangheta organised crime group, suspected of involvement in drugs and weapons trafficking, including some "high value" figures in the group.
“We think that among the arrests were several persons of a high value who played a huge role in the organisation, not only in Belgium but in other European countries,” said Belgian federal prosecutor Antoon Schotsaert.
The swoop was part of an investigation spanning Italy, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Romania as well as Brazil and Panama, according to EU law enforcement agency Europol.
The network was devoted primarily to international drug trafficking from South America to Europe and Australia, Europol said in a statement.
The ‘Ndrangheta clans were also involved in running weapons from Pakistan to South America, supplying Brazilian criminal group PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) in exchange for cocaine shipments, Europol added.
The ‘Ndrangheta, which has its roots in the southern Italian region of Calabria, has surpassed Cosa Nostra as the most powerful mafia group in the country, and one of the largest criminal networks in the world.
“The mafia-style organisation is responsible for much of Europe’s cocaine trade, combined with systematic money laundering, bribery, and violence,” Europol said.
Some of the ‘Ndrangheta families targeted have been involved in clan feuds culminating in mass shootings, including the killing of six people in the German city of Duisburg in 2007, it said.
Profits were invested in real estate, restaurants, hotels, car wash companies, supermarkets, and other commercial activities.
Italian police commander Massimiliano D’Angelantonio said the network used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to arrange for the funds to be moved to pay for drugs.
“They made transactions of more than 22 million euros in a single year,” he told a news conference
Assets worth 25 million euros ($27.58 million) were seized in Italy, Germany, Portugal and France in “Operation Eureka,” which was launched in 2019 initially to look into drug smuggling between Calabria and the Belgian city of Genk, according to Italian police.
A total of 108 people were arrested in Italy and other EU countries on the orders of police based in the southern city of Reggio Calabria, the Italian police said.
Related investigations led to the arrest of 15 people in Belgium and 24 in Germany, they said, as well as a further 53 detentions in northern Italy.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan, Federico Maccioni, Philip Blenkinsop, Charlotte van Campenhout and Emilio Parodi;Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Bernadette Baum)