Police launch coordinated raids on Italian mafia in Europe

Police launch coordinated raids on Italian mafia in Europe

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

In Germany, federal police said there had been multiple arrests in the early morning raids on premises mainly in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders the Netherlands and Belgium, and Bavaria to the south.

European officials announced the arrests at the Hague headquarters of Eurojust, the European Union prosecutors agency set up to bolster the fight against cross-border crime in the 28-nation bloc.

Masked police stand in an ice parlor in Duisburg, western Germanty, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 as authorities conduct raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the Italian mafia.

Fred Westerbeke, chief prosecutor of the Dutch Prosecutor's office, said authorities seized roughly $2.27 million in the raids, along with amounts of ecstasy and cocaine. Throughout the two-year joint investigation, some four tons of cocaine were seized.

"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.

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But some express caution and said the mafia will continue to pose threat as the group still has resources and is operating across the world.

Giovanni Bombardieri, an Italian prosecutor, said that "sophisticated investigative techniques" were used to monitor the crime group's operations and communications, and characterized the violence linked to 'Ndrangheta as tantamount to "carnage".

But he warned that it was "just a first step", saying the arrests were "nothing for the 'Ndrangheta, there are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions that should be seized".

The latest clampdown on the Italian mafia signals the European authorities' efforts to combat organized crime groups. It's the only mafia group that operates on all continents, prosecutors say.

Eurojust described it as one of the most "powerful criminal networks in the world", and said it "controls much of Europe's cocaine trade, combined with systematic money laundering, bribery and violent acts".

The raids follow Tuesday's operation against the Sicilian Mafia in Palermo, which resulted in the capture of the syndicate's newly elected leader, 80-year-old jeweller Settimo Mineo, in addition to 45 other suspects. They are accused of committing "serious crimes" including activities linked to global drug trafficking, Italian police said in a statement.

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