More than 150 people have been arrested across Germany, Spain and Italy after a three-year investigation into a powerful Italian mafia group.
Italian and Belgian investigators believe the suspected members of the ‘Ndrangheta organised crime group, smuggled close to 25 tonnes of cocaine between October 2019 and January 2022.
The group is also accused of funnelling more than €22m (£19m) from Calabria in Italy to Belgium, the Netherlands and South America.
The ‘Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, and has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in Italy – and arguably the world’s richest organised crime group.
Italy’s Carabinieri police backed by helicopters carried out 108 arrests in various cities across the country in an investigation based in the southern city of Reggio Calabria, they said in a statement.
A further 15 people were detained on the orders of police in the northwestern Italian port city of Genoa.
The more than 120 people arrested are accused, among other things, of mafia association; possession, production, and trafficking of drugs and weapons; and money laundering.
Meanwhile, thousands of German police were involved in searches that lead to the arrests of dozens of suspects in early morning raids.
Among those arrested in Germany were four people in Bavaria, 15 in North Rhine-Westphalia, and 10 in the southwestern state of Rhineland Palatinate.
State police in Bavaria said the arrests were the result of more than three years of an investigation dubbed “Operation Eureka”.
Police also seized potential evidence at dozens of locations including homes and offices.
Two suspects who were under investigation in the western state of Saarland, were arrested in Italy.
Police did not identify them, saying only that one was 47 years old and the other 25.
Among other things, the suspects in Germany are accused of money laundering, gang tax evasion, commercial gang fraud, and narcotics smuggling, a statement from the German state office of criminal investigation in North Rhine-Westphalia said.
A man was also arrested in Spain’s southern city of Malaga as part of the coordinated investigation, Spanish police said, without giving further details
The coordinated probe was carried out by investigators in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, German public prosecutors and state police have said.
German prosecutors and the Carabinieri police said they would hold two separate news conferences later on Wednesday.