On Wednesday, police from throughout Europe started a massive, coordinated operation against Italy’s famed ‘Ndrangheta mafia. Detaining over 130 people and seizing millions of euros in dozens of searches.
According to Eric van Duyse, “It is likely the biggest operation ever carried out in Europe against the Calabrese mafia. He is a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutors’ office, which launched the probe.
Europol reported that 132 alleged ‘Ndrangheta members apprehended on a “action day”. Involving and 10 countries Including eight in Europe and Brazil and Panama.
Following an investigation that revealed the wealthy organised crime group’s global reach. Moreover, they are accused of crimes such as mafia association, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, and tax fraud.
The ‘Ndrangheta is Italy’s most powerful and wealthiest mafia. Which is controlling the majority of cocaine entering Europe and operating in over 40 countries worldwide.
It has effectively grown far beyond its traditional fields of drug trafficking and loan sharking today. Employing shell businesses and front men to reinvest criminal profits in the global legal economy.
According to Italian authorities, the majority of the arrests took place in Italy. And with the remainder concentrating in Germany and Belgium.
Europol reported that around 2,770 police personnel involved in the operations in ten countries. Including France, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Romania.
The FBI said in a statement that Operation Eureka “now stands as the largest hit involving the Italian poly-criminal syndicate to date.”
Authorities in Italy reported that assets and property worth 25 million euros. Which are confiscated in Italy, Portugal, Germany, and France.
According to Belgian prosecutors, 150 homes raided in eight European nations. Involving 1,400 police officers in Italy and more than 1,000 in Germany.
The operation targeted a criminal network led by multiple ‘Ndrangheta families situated in the southern Italian province of Reggio Calabria.
The network hit on Wednesday “was mainly devoted to international drug trafficking from South America to Europe, as well as Australia”
They have links with Colombia’s “Gulf Clan” crime syndicate and an Albanian-speaking syndicate. Indeed they are operating in Ecuador and across Europe, according to the report.
The investigation also uncovers an agreement to transfer a container of firearms to Brazilian paramilitaries. Through Pakistani intermediaries in exchange for cocaine brought to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.
Investigations started in 2019
According to Italian authorities they started their investigations in June 2019. At the request of the Belgians, focusing on one San Luca family active in the Belgian town of Genk.
A Belgian police officer told a news conference in Italy how he and his team befriended suspects. At a port in Belgium before being “invited to join them on their holidays in San Luca”.
Indeed their friendship allowed them to gather key evidence against them, he says.
The investigation began with international drug trafficking. But later expanded to encompass money laundering, mainly in the catering, tourist, and real estate industries. As well as the arms trade, according to Italian officials.
The ‘Ndrangheta, based in Calabria, the point of Italy’s boot. Which is regarded as one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates due to its monopoly on the cocaine import market.
Its influence has spread around the world. Meanwhile it has long eclipsed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as Italy’s largest criminal outfit.