“Today’s raids are one of the largest operations carried out so far in the fight against Italian organised crime,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, adding they had “dealt a serious blow to the `Ndrangheta.”
The swoop was part of an investigation spanning Italy, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Romania, Brazil and Panama, according to European Union law enforcement agency Europol.
The network was devoted primarily to international drug trafficking from South America to both Europe and Australia, Europol said in a statement.
The network used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to arrange for funds to be moved to pay for drug deals, Italian police commander Massimiliano D’Angelantonio told a news conference.
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.
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, according to Europol.
ICE CREAM PARLOUR
Profits were recycled through real estate, restaurants, hotels, car wash companies, supermarkets, and other commercial activities.
In Germany, investigators targeted an ice cream parlour in the northwestern town of Siegen, which they suspected was being used to launder money and as a strategic hub for the ‘Ndrangheta.