Police arrest around 90 in anti-mafia raids


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.

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.

Eurojust said Italian authorities arrested 41 suspects mainly in the southern regions of Catanzaro and Calabria, the base of the 'Ndrangheta organised crime group.

"Today we have issued a clear message to criminal alliances across Europe, and they are not the only ones who can work across borders", Filippo Spiezia, Eurojust deputy head, told a press conference in The Hague.

Eurojust, the EU's Judicial Cooperation Unit, is a unit established to fight cross-border organized crime in Europe.

Dutch chief public prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said dozens of raids also netted about 2 million euros (£1.7 million) in criminal proceeds as well as drugs including ecstasy and cocaine.

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

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.

The 'Ndrangheta is seen as the most powerful Italian mafia organization, and a leading force in money laundering and the cocaine trade.

The European police agency Europol said it was a "decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world". "There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized".

"This is not just happening in Italy, it is happening on other countries", Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho warned and said Wednesday's operation was just a "first step".

Two arrests were made in Luxembourg, and five in the Netherlands, Eurojust said.

He said that groups of the 'Ndrangheta and its allies had infiltrated ports around Europe to ease drug smuggling, and have "polluted" lawyers and accountants in numerous countries on their payrolls.

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.

Just under half of the suspects were detained in Italy.