Italian police have carried out a sweeping raid against the powerful ‘ndrangheta mafia, resulting in the arrest of 334 people including lawyers, accountants, a former MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and the president of the association of mayors of Calabria.
About 3,000 officers made pre-dawn arrests in 12 Italian regions, with further arrests carried out in Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria.
“This is the biggest sweep since the Palermo maxi-trial (475 suspects tried in 1986-87),” Cantanzo prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said in a statement.
The Palermo trial marked a turning point in the battle against the Sicilian crime gang, and its influence has waned dramatically over the past three decades, allowing ‘ndrangheta to surge to prominence. The Calabrian-based ‘ndrangheta now has more than 30,000 members in Calabria alone and a turnover of about 43 billion euros. The group controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade, according to Europol.
Police seized 11 sidearms, 12 rifles or machine guns, and “abundant ammunition of various calibers” as well as property worth 15 million euros.
Those arrested are facing charges of criminal association, homicide, extortion, usury and money laundering. Some of the suspects were already in prison, while others have been placed under surveillance in their homes.
The police arrested Luigi Mancuso, whom officials described as the head of the clan, along with dozens of others believed to have ties to the ’ndrangheta. According to anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, the powerful Mancuso clan, which had infiltrated freemason lodges in several Italian regions, had also developed relations “with Freemason lodges in Scotland and Great Britain”.
Those arrested include Giancarlo Pittelli, a renowned lawyer, and former MP and senator from ex-PM Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Lawyers, accountants and other officials were also detained.
Gratteri said that Pittelii helped the organised criminals gain access to “politicians, Freemasons and influential professionals”.
Pittelli, 66, “systematically made available to criminals his considerable wealth of knowledge and privileged relations with leading figures at the political-institutional level, in the business world and in the professions, also to acquire information covered by official secrecy”.
The Calabrian regional president of the Anci (association of mayors) and centre-left mayor of Pizzo (Vibo Valentia) were also among those arrested.