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100 'Ndrangheta arrests in three Italian regions

Clan's infiltration of Calabrian, Tuscan and Lombard life mapped

(ANSA) - ROME, NOV 16 - Italian police on Tuesday arrested over 100 people in connection with a probe into the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mafia in the three regions of Calabria, Tuscany and Lombardy.
    The arrests were against alleged members of the Molè clan, one of the oldest and most powerful families in what is Italy's richest and most powerful mafias.
    The arrests were made on warrants from prosecutors in Milan, Florence and Reggio Calabria.
    Police said they had mapped the ramifications of the Piana di Gioia Tauro clan in central-northern Italy as well as abroad.
    Those arrested have been charged with mafia association, extortion, illegal arms possession, drug trafficking, the production and sale of narcotics, usury, fraudulent bankruptcy, tax fraud and corruption.
    Among those placed under investigation in the Lombardy part of the probe is the former mayor of Lomazzo near Como, Marino Carugati, and a former town councillorthere, on suspicion of helping the Molè clan.
    Prosecutor Riccardo Targetti said the clan had forced businessmen to become their accomplices, boasting "we arrive at their homes as punctually as registered letters", according to a wiretap cited.
    Targetti appealed to Italian society not to "play with fire" by flirting with 'Ndrangheta clans, saying they were capable of "taking control" of society.
    Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese voiced "satisfaction" at what she called a "vast operation".
    'Ndrangheta (from a Greek word meaning 'heroism' or 'virtue') once lived in the twin shadow of Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples.
    While those two syndicates, notably the Sicilians, were feeding off the transatlantic heroin trade through operations like the infamous 'French connection', 'Ndrangheta was only just emerging from its traditional stock-in-trade of kidnappings in the Calabrian highlands.
    It has since become a highly sophisticated global network with a chokehold on the European cocaine trade and control over swathes of its home turf where police fear to tread, Italian officials say.
    As well as being the richest, 'Ndrangheta is also regarded as the most impenetrable of Italy's mafias, with its close-knit family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian mafia in its ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into State witnesses.
    The European law enforcement agency Europol has identified the 'Ndrangheta mafia as one of the "most threatening" organized crime groups on the global level, due to its "enormous financial might" and "immense corruptive power," with a presence in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, USA, Colombia and Australia, where 'Ndrangheta turf wars have gained headlines.
    In Europe, 'Ndrangheta really only came into the public eye in 2007, when six clan members were gunned down on the midsummer Ferragosto holiday in the German city of Duisburg in a feud that began as a wedding spat in a small Calabrian coastal town, San Luca, in 1991.
    A string of 'Ndrangheta-linked businesses have been seized in the last few years all over northern Italy, and especially in the affluent Lombard belt around Milan, and a Lombardy regional councillor was placed under investigation for buying votes from transplanted clans.
    On the Italian Riviera, the town councils of Bordighera and Ventimiglia were dissolved for 'Ndrangheta infiltration in 2011 and 2012, the first non-Calabrian municipalities to be wound up because of such penetration.
    In Rome, the Calabrian Mob has laundered money in a string of plum properties, as attested to by recent seizures police say are only the tip of the iceberg.
    More recently, gangsters involved in a hitherto-unknown Rome crime organisation that allegedly had fingers in a web of business and political operations were said to have links to other mafias including 'Ndrangheta.
    The biggest ever 'Ndrangheta trial got under way at Lamezia Terme in 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 over 400 charges.
    The defendants include local politicians, businessmen, police and other institutional figures accused of helping 'Ndrangheta hold sway over Calabrian life.
    That trial handed down its first sentences on Calabrian mobsters and their clients earlier this month.
    In January 2015 police arrested more than 160 people in the biggest-ever operation against a northern business arm of 'Ndrangheta.
    The op showed how far the one-time southern kidnapping gangs had infiltrated the economy of Italy's most affluent regions, including the thriving economy of Reggio Emilia around Bologna.
    Other probes have shown the increasing 'Ndrangheta infiltration in the region around Milan, Lombardy, the region around Genoa, Liguria, and the region around Turin, Piedmont.
    In February 2014 a major Italian-FBI bust showed that 'Ndrangheta was muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra's historic five families in New York, the Gambinos.
    Before that, in July 2010, a massive police operation netted the head of the 'Ndrangheta and 300 others.
    Domenico Oppedisano, 80, anointed the equivalent of the 'boss of bosses' in Cosa Nostra at a Calabrian shrine to the Madonna a year previously, was caught along with their reputed head in Lombardy, Pino Neri.
    'Ndrangheta is so secretive that the replacement for Oppedisano is still not known. (ANSA).
   

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