One of Italy’s leading mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta, has been having a rough couple of years. The global organization known to be involved in illegal gambling, drug and human trafficking and other crimes has been the constant target of law enforcement, with a new effort underway to end its reign of power.
As part of a large-scale operation in several European countries, more than 100 people have been arrested in Italy, Belgium and Germany. Those arrested are charged with money laundering, tax evasion, organized business fraud, drug smuggling and possession and trafficking of weapons.
In Italy, where the organization is headquartered in Calabria, the police have carried out 108 arrests in various cities of the country. In addition, another 15 people have been arrested by the Police in Genoa. The police action police shortly after several other high-profile arrests this year.
Bringing Down The House
For its part, the German police made some 30 arrests and dozens of searches in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Erfurt, Bavaria and Saarland. Prosecutors in the various German states collaborated to assist in the raid. They specified in a joint statement that the police operation is a dedicated effort to bring down members of the ‘Ndrangheta.
The representative in Italy of Eurojust, Filippo Spiezia, defined “Operation Eureka,” as the effort was called, as the largest and most important carried out at a European level and which has required three years of investigation. Eurojust is a European Union-led initiative to help facilitate inter-agency cooperation among member states’ law enforcement bodies.
Spiezia added that 24 people have been arrested in Belgium and another 23 arrest warrants have been issued in various European countries, including Spain, Romania, Portugal and others. Europol is also assisting with the investigation.
Investigators have evidence that the ‘Ndrangheta may have imported over 25 tons of cocaine into Europe from 2019 to 2022. With that, they could have transferred over €22 million (US$24.2 million) from Calabria to Belgium, the Netherlands and South America.
That money is now gone. This week’s raids also saw law enforcement seize €25 million (US$27.7 million) in assets, with more to be taken as the investigation continues.
The End of an Era
The ‘Ndrangheta has long been considered to be the most powerful mafia to come out of Italy. It has a high degree of organization that has allowed it to expand across the globe and topple Cosa Nostra and Camorra as the leading Italian mob.
The Calabrian mafia is dedicated, above all, to international cocaine trafficking. It maintains relationships with minor criminal organizations that operate on its behalf in over 40 countries and now uses legitimate companies to invest its illegal profits.
Investigators have also discovered connections with a Brazilian paramilitary organization, Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Capital Command). It allegedly facilitated the delivery of weapons through Pakistani criminals, who in turn supplied drugs at the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria.
The ongoing attack on the ‘Ndrangheta is the result of a long-running and concerted law enforcement effort that began a couple of years ago. After Italy ramped up its anti-mafia policing efforts, more criminals began to fall.
Since then, there have been hundreds of arrests, with more than a few of those individuals willing to talk in exchange for a lighter sentence. This has led to additional police raids and seizures that are trying to dismantle the ‘Ndrangheta’s €50-billion (US$55.3 billion) enterprise.
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