Hundreds of special forces arrested at least 84 men and women overnight in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands in the largest-ever pan-European investigation into organized crime. Raids were also carried out in South America as part of the sting operation. More than three tons of cocaine and 140 kilograms of ecstasy were also seized, police said. All of those arrested are allegedly tied to the southern Italian 'Ndrangheta crime group that’s thought to have as many as 6,000 members worldwide that work to control 80 percent of Europe’s heroin trade. It is Italy’s most powerful and dangerous organized crime syndicate, having surpassed the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Neapolitan Camorra. Most of those arrested had set up shop to launder money in Italian restaurants and ice cream parlors, according to Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy’s top mafia investigator who on Wedensday addressed reporters in The Hague, where Eurojust, the cooperative of European police forces, is based. The arrests mark the first time Europe’s police forces worked together sharing investigative findings in real time on a mafia-related sting operation.
The 'Ndrangheta arrests early Wednesday come after another success for Italian authorities on Tuesday with the arrest of an 80-year-old jeweler who was thought to be the “boss of bosses” of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia and 45 of his alleged cohorts. The 'Ndrangheta is thought to have prospered in recent years by taking advantage of the fact that European countries do not share judicial investigation findings unless subpoenaed, which has allowed the 'Ndrangheta to make inroads in Germany and elsewhere because they could easily hide their trail at the first hint the police were on to them. De Raho told reporters that the arrests, while significant, did not signal a defeat for the powerful crime group, whose tentacles he says are global. “The arrests are nothing for 'ndrangheta,” he said. “There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized.”