Dozens of mafia suspects held in international sting


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.

At least 90 people were arrested, and more than three tons of drugs and millions of laundered money were seized across Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Prosecutors and officials said the raids on Wednesday netted about 2 million euros in criminal proceeds and some ecstasy pills and cocaine were found. "There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized".

Germany's Der Spiegel reported that the German operation was mostly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia - a stronghold for the mafia - and involved 240 police and another 240 support staff from the federal criminal agency.

The group surpassed Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra groups, according to AFP, due to its tight on the control of cocaine trade.

That move was made in response to complaints by the Italian government about Dutch complacency in the face of mafia activity, allowing wanted criminals to live "a carefree life" in the Netherlands, the paper said.

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German prosecutors said 65 premises linked to the southern Italy-based organised crime group were also being searched.

"Today's action, code named 'Pollino", is the result of an intensive joint investigation that started in 2016 and has been coordinated at European level, ' Eurojust said.

"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".

He added, groups of the 'Ndrangheta and its allies, have infiltrated the ports around Europe and "polluted" lawyers and accountants in many countries on their payrolls.

Wednesday's operation came a day after Italian police arrested the suspected new head of the Sicilian Mafia and 45 other alleged gangsters, dealing a major blow to the mob as it tried to rebuild after years of setbacks.

Jeweller Mineo, 80, was detained along with at least 45 others just before he was due to be appointed official heir to notorious mafia boss Toto Riina who died in prison a year ago.