European Raids See More Than 130 ‘Ndrangheta Mafia Associates Arrested

Posted on: May 4, 2023, 03:19h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2023, 11:17h.

Police have begun raids across Europe to arrest members of one of the continent’s leading mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta. The global organization is known to be involved in illegal gambling and drug and human trafficking.

Hooded figures belonging to the 'Ndrangheta mafia are led away by Italian police
Italian police lead away hooded figures belonging to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. A joint effort across Europe has led to the arrest of more than 130 suspected crime gang members. (Image: Corriere del Ticino)

More than 100 people have been arrested in Italy, Belgium, and Germany as part of a large-scale operation in several European countries. Those arrested are charged with money laundering, tax evasion, organized business fraud, drug smuggling, and possession and trafficking of weapons.

In Italy, where the organization is headquartered in Calabria, police have made 108 arrests in multiple cities. Another 15 people have been arrested by the police in Genoa. These arrests came shortly after other recent high-profile ‘Ndrangheta arrests this year.

The ‘Ndrangheta has long been considered the most powerful Italian mafia. It has a high degree of organization, allowing it to expand globally and topple the Cosa Nostra and Camorra as the leading Italian mob.

Investigators have evidence that the ‘Ndrangheta may have imported more than 25 tons of cocaine into Europe from 2019 to 2022. With that, they could have transferred more than €22 million (US$24.2 million) from Calabria to Belgium, the Netherlands, and South America.

The ongoing attack on the ‘Ndrangheta results from a long-running and concerted law enforcement effort that began several years ago. Since then, there have been hundreds of arrests, with more than a few individuals willing to talk in exchange for a lighter sentence. This has led to additional police raids and seizures trying to dismantle the ‘Ndrangheta’s €50-billion (US$55.3 billion) enterprise.

European Raids

The German police made 30 arrests and dozens of searches in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Erfurt, Bavaria, and Saarland. Prosecutors in the various German states collaborated to assist in the raid. They specified in a joint statement that the police operation is a dedicated effort to bring down members of the ‘Ndrangheta.

Eurojust’s representative in Italy, Filippo Spiezia, defined “Operation Eureka,” as the effort was called, as the largest and most important carried out at a European level over the past three years. Eurojust is a European Union-led initiative to help facilitate inter-agency cooperation among member states’ law enforcement bodies.

Spiezia added that 24 people have been arrested in Belgium, and another 23 arrest warrants have been issued in various European countries, including Spain, Romania, Portugal, and others. Europol is also assisting with the investigation.

During the raids, police seized €25 million (US$27.7 million) in assets.

Uncovering Connections

Investigators have also discovered connections with a Brazilian paramilitary organization, Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Capital Command). That group allegedly facilitated weapons delivery through Pakistani criminals, who supplied drugs at the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria.

The Calabrian mafia maintains relationships with minor criminal organizations operating on its behalf in more than 40 countries, and now uses legitimate companies to invest illegal profits.