Crackdown on Italian mob prompts dozens of arrests in Europe

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"Today, supported by a coordination center at Eurojust, judicial and law enforcement authorities from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Belgium are now executing arrests and seizures against a 'Ndrangheta criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence", Wednesday's statement read.

Police arrested dozens of people in Europe and South America in a "decisive hit" against Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia group, officials said Thursday.

In Germany, the raids - which are part of Operation Pollino - are focused on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the mafia has traditionally had a large presence.

"Today we have issued a clear message to criminal alliances across Europe, and they are not the only ones who can work across borders", Filippo Spiezia, Eurojust deputy head, told a press conference in The Hague.

The operation was coordinated by Eurojust, Europe's cross-border crime fighting agency, and resulted in drugs and cash being seized, in addition to the arrest of around 90 suspected mafia members and their associates.

But Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italian anti-Mafia and anti-terrorism national prosecutor, also sounded a note of caution, saying that the raids only scratched the surface of the powerful 'ndrangheta, whose tentacles and illicit activities spread all over the world.

The "Ndrangheta is seen as the most powerful Italian mafia organization, trumping Sicily's Cosa Nostra and Naples" Camorra.

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But he warned that it was "just a first step", saying the arrests were "nothing for the 'Ndrangheta, there are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions that should be seized".

Dutch prosecutors said the investigation began after they noticed money laundering at two Italian restaurants in the southern Netherlands that showed criminal links with Germany and Calabria, home of the 'Ndrangheta.

The investigation also involved operations in the South American country of Suriname.

Speaking in The Hague, Cafiero de Raho said the arrests "are nothing for 'ndrangheta".

"Today we send a clear message to organized crime groups across Europe", said Filippo Spiezia, vice president of Eurojust, the European Union prosecution agency that coordinated the raids.

The presumed new boss of the Cosa Nostra was arrested together with 45 other top mobsters, Italian authorities, striking a massive blow to the resurgent Sicilian Mafia. 80-year-old jeweller, Settimo Mineo, was detained in a dawn raid in Palermo.

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