Germany and Italian police arrest 169, seize millions in assets in anti-mafia operation

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Police in Germany and Italy have arrested 169 people and seized almost $US60 million in assets as part of an anti-mafia operation targeting a cross-border extortion racket, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Those arrested, including three mayors and several city councilors, are suspected of being involved with the ‘Ndrangheta mafia faction based in the southwestern region of Calabria in Italy. According to Reuters, two major clans had infiltrated businesses in both Germany and Italy, predominantly targeting the food, wine, refuse collection and funeral service industries.

Some were arrested on suspicion of blackmail, attempted murder, money laundering and other organised crime offences. Police said more arrests were possible.

The network is thought to have forced German restaurants to buy pizza dough, wine and pastries made in southern Italy by retailers who were complicit in the alleged offending. The BBC reports that the faction was plotting to expand into neighboring Switzerland.

The operation was carried out jointly by German police and the para-military Carabinieri section of the Italian authorities. It represents the most significant step against the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in the last two decades, the BBC reports.

According to a 2013 “Threat Assessment on Italian Organised Crime” report by Europol, the ‘Ndrangheta is one of the world’s most powerful organised crime groups and is believed to currently operate across Europe, South America, Africa, North America and Oceania.

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