(Berlin) Police forces across Europe on Wednesday arrested dozens of people, raided homes and seized assets estimated at 25 million euros in a massive joint crackdown on the organized crime syndicate’ ndrangheta in Italy, one of the most powerful, wide-ranging and wealthiest drug trafficking groups in the world.
In Italy, the carabinieri, supported by police helicopters, announced that arrest warrants had been issued for 108 people accused of, among other things, association with the Mafia, possession, production and trafficking of narcotics and weapons, and money laundering.
The operation coordinated by the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust aimed to dismantle a network of contacts linking the ‘Ndrangheta, Colombian drug producers, paramilitary groups and European-based operations that smuggle tons of of cocaine to Europe and Australia. The drug proceeds were then laundered through restaurants, ice cream parlors and car washes.
One of the network’s key figures was a former leader, Rocco Morabito, who was arrested in 2021 in Brazil after a nearly 20-year cabal. The investigation also confirmed the continued strength of a handful of well-known ‘Ndrangheta clans that operate in the Calabrian town of San Luca.
The investigation revealed how their networks used ports in Ecuador, Panama and Brazil to ship Colombian drugs to northern European ports, while also engaging in arms trafficking. According to Italian authorities and a press release from the carabinieri, the money was transferred through a Chinese money transfer service.
In Germany, more than a thousand officers raided dozens of homes, offices and shops in the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia, prosecutors said. in a joint statement. More than 30 suspects subject to an arrest warrant have been arrested.
Besides Italy and Germany, arrest warrants were also issued in Belgium, France, Portugal, Romania and Spain, while searches were carried out in Slovenia.
The Portuguese judicial police have announced that they have arrested a 62-year-old Italian for criminal association, money laundering and drug trafficking as part of the European operation called “Eureka”. The police also seized around half a million euros and various documents, among other confiscated items.
In recent years, European authorities have waged a campaign against the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, as the group has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia as the main conduit for tens of billions of euros in cocaine in recent decades, from South America South to Europe.
At a press conference in the Calabrian capital, Reggio Calabria, officials estimated that the operation seized 23 tonnes of cocaine over the years of investigation, robbing the ‘Ndrangheta of some 2, 5 billion euros in drug revenue. In addition, they announced the seizure of 25 million euros in assets.
In Germany, the ‘Ndrangheta has been firmly established since the 1970s. It is considered the most powerful of the Italian criminal organizations present in the country and focuses mainly on international drug trafficking, according to the German Federal Criminal Investigation Office.
In Germany, the operation mainly focused on North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, with around 500 officers deployed in each state. In North Rhine-Westphalia, 51 houses, apartments, offices and business premises were searched and 15 suspects arrested.
The suspects are charged with, among other things, money laundering, gang tax evasion, commercial gang fraud and drug trafficking, according to a statement from the German Criminal Investigation Office of North Rhine-Westphalia.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, police raided 50 premises and arrested ten suspects. The Rhineland-Palatinate intervention forces were supported by special units from the federal government and other states, as well as the customs and tax investigation service, German news agency dpa reported.