Police and investigators on Tuesday had a field day when nearly 170 people, including mayors, businessmen, and local administrators were arrested in a large anti-mafia blitz in Italy and Germany against clan members who controlled restaurants, garbage collection, and funeral services.
Most of the arrests were carried out in the southern Italian region of Calabria, the base of the ‘Ndrangheta crime group.
In recent years, the ‘Ndrangheta has overtaken the Sicilian mob, Cosa Nostra, in drugs and arms trafficking and extortion rackets, extending its influences into northern Europe, the United States, and Canada.
In Germany, as part of the same operation, on suspicion of blackmail, attempted murder, money laundering, and other organized crime offenses, police also arrested about a dozen men and searched six apartments and four restaurants, and confiscated cash, mobile phones, documents, and storage devices.
Investigators said the clans of the Farao and Marincola families, based in the Calabrian city of Cirò Marina, had infiltrated businesses in both countries, and at least three Italian mayors, including the mayor of Cirò Marina, as well as a number of city councilors, were arrested.
The farmers’ group Coldiretti estimates that at least 5,000 restaurants are in criminal hands and that clan members forced restaurants to buy meat, fish, wine, and other produce from complicit retailers and wholesalers associated with the mob, which is worth about 21.8 billion euros a year.
The clans also forced people to use some private garbage collection and recycling companies that they took control of.
Eurojust, the Netherlands-based group that helps organize investigations and prosecutions of cross-border crime in the European Union, said in a statement that some of the Italian food producers were used as front companies to launder illicit profits made through other criminal activities.
The ‘Ndrangheta families in Calabria have become more successful than their Sicilian counterparts because of close family ties and their horizontal structure, as opposed to Sicilian’s hierarchical structure, which gives families more independence, has made it difficult for police and investigators.
[via U.S. News]