> ANSA English > News

Police-FBI in joint 'Ndrangheta sweep

Calabrian mafia aimed to open up new drug route via Gioia Tauro

11 February, 12:09
Police-FBI in joint 'Ndrangheta sweep (ANSA) - Rome, February 11 - Italian police and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday arrested 26 people in a joint operation against the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate and mafia families in the United States.

The arrested people are suspected of involvement in international drug trafficking activities aimed at opening up a new cocaine route from Guyana in South America to Europe via the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro. Investigators say the drug was due to arrive in liquid form concealed in tins of pineapple or coconut.

In total 40 people have been placed under investigation in connection with the probe, which allegedly involves 'Ndrangheta families based along Calabria's Ionian coast and operating across Italy, the United States, Canada and central and South America, in collaboration with mafia families in the US and in direct contact with South American drugs cartels.

Francesco Ursino, the alleged head of the Ursino 'Ndrangheta clan based in Gioiosa Ionica and son of convicted boss Antonio, and Giovanni Morabito, nephew of the convicted boss Giuseppe, known as 'u' tiradrittu', were among those arrested in Italy. Suspects arrested in the United States included people allegedly linked to the Gambino family, one of New York's five Cosa Nostra families. The suspects could face charges of mafia association, drug trafficking, drug dealing and money-laundering, among others. The blitz comes on the heels of a similar joint Italy-US operation against the Sicilian mafia in 2008 that bust an international drug trafficking ring involving Cosa Nostra families in Palermo and members of the Gambino family in New York.

Some 80 people were arrested on that occasion on suspicion of mafia association, homicide, extorsion and other crimes. Since then the 'Ndrangheta has usurped Cosa Nostra as Italy's most powerful crime syndicate with contacts and activities across the globe.