45 arrested in 2 'Ndrangheta ops

Bosses, capos nabbed in Calabria and northern Italy

(ANSA) - ROME, FEB 16 - Italian police on Tuesday arrested a total of 45 people in two operations against the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mafia, Italy's richest and most powerful organised crime outfit.
    In the first operation, 28 people were arrested in a Reggio Calabria-based sweep that spanned Cosenza, Milan, Varese, Como, Livorno, Florence and Udine.
    Several bosses and capos of various clans were arrested in a probe that has uncovered more evidence of how 'Ndrangheta, which controls the European cocaine trade, has infiltrated the economic fabric of the affluent Italian north.
    Those arrested are accused of a range of mafia crimes including association, usury, extortion, fraud and false claiming of assets.
    Police seized some six million euros from eight construction and electrical equipment companies linked to the Mob.
    In the second operation, some 17 people were arrested in a sweep against the Forastefano clan of Catanzaro.
    Those arrested were charged with mafia association, money laundering, extortion and falsely claiming assets.
    The probe which led to the arrests lasted over three years, police said.
    Both probes were coordinated by Italy's leading anti-'Ndrangheta prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri.
    'Ndrangheta is Italy's richest and most powerful mafia thanks to its control of the European cocaine trade.
    All its activities have been estimated to be worth the equivalent of at least three per cent of Italian GDP.
    Its tentacles have spread from its southern Italian base to central and northern Italy, northern Europe, North and South America and Australia, among other areas.
    Its influence is especially strong in the affluent northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, but it has also spread to Lazio and Rome.
    The other main mafias in Italy are Cosa Nostra in Sicily, long more powerful and dangerous than 'Ndrangheta, and the Camorra in Campania.
    There is a smaller mafia in Puglia, the Sacra Corona Unita (United Holy Crown, SCU), which is generally considered less dangerous and expansive.
    The biggest ever trial into 'Ndrangheta started in Lamezia Terme in mid-January.
    The trial delves into the activities of the 'Ndrangheta clans in Vibo Valentia and their links to the political, institutional, economic and rogue Masonic worlds controlling all aspects of local life in Calabria.
    It is the biggest mafia trial in Italy since the so-called 'maxi-trial' of Cosa Nostra in Sicily from 1986 to 1992.
    The trial, which is expected to last around three years, has over 300 defendants who are facing hundreds if charges.
    The defendants include local politicians, businessmen, police and other institutional figures accused of helping 'Ndrangheta hold sway over Calabrian life.
    "We will show the asphyxiation of Calabrian life by 'Ndrangheta," said Gratteri in his opening remarks. (ANSA).


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