On September 15, 450 French gendarmes and 120 Italian carabinieri arrested participants in a vast drug trafficking operation between France and Italy. Credit: AFP.

The battle against organized crime in Europe continued with another massive police raid on the continents

Nearly 600 French and Italian police took part in cross-border raids Tuesday targeting the fearsome ‘Ndrangheta mafia and French organized crime groups, resulting in 46 arrests, officials said.

The operation, the fruit of investigations that began in 2018, targeted drug and weapons smuggling that also involved associates in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as drug suppliers based in Albania, Agence France-Presse reported.

“On September 15, 450 French gendarmes and 120 Italian carabinieri arrested participants in a vast drug trafficking operation between France and Italy,” prosecutors in the French Mediterranean city of Marseille said.

The arrests “allowed the breakup of a French criminal group operating in southern France, linked in part to the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangeta,” the statement added.

Italy’s carabinieri said 14 suspects had been arrested on charges of the possession and traffic of weapons and drugs, possession of fake IDs, or helping a ‘Ndrangheta member escape justice, AFP reported.

According to the Carabinieri, Italy’s southern Calabria region is the historical home of the ’Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful organized crime groups. Credit: File photo.

The 32 arrested by French police are suspected of belonging to an armed gang, drug trafficking and robbery.

Some €900,000 worth of evidence was seized, AFP reported.

The carabinieri statement alleged deals involving cocaine and cannabis — as well Skorpion machine guns and AK47 assault rifles — between Carmelo Sgro, linked to the mafia’s Gallico clan, and a French trafficker with ties to the Magnoli family based on the French Riviera.

It also claimed that Sgro’s family helped Filippo Morgante, a high-ranking Gallico member, to go on the run with the help of fake IDs, AFP reported.

The arrests marked another setback for the ‘Ndrangheta in 2020 — in July, 75 people linked to the group were arrested following a major joint raid by Italian and Swiss authorities.

Those arrested were accused of several crimes including Mafia association, international drug trafficking, money laundering, false registration of assets, and corruption.

Authorities also seized assets worth €169 million and placed under investigation – but did not arrest – a further 83 suspects, the Guardia di Finanza said.

And in March, a ‘Ndrangheta mob boss was captured thanks to the country’s coronavirus quarantine, after empty streets enabled police to spot cigarette smoke coming from his hideout.

Cesare Antonio Cordì, the 42-year-old boss of the gang based in Calabria, Italy, was caught out by the government’s “stay at home” order after clear streets led police to inspect suspicious activity on uninhabited land. 

Hiding in an abandoned house in the isolated district of Bruzzano Zeffirio, a small town in the Locride area of Calabria, mobster Cordì was betrayed by his own cigarette smoke seen emerging from the building.

Italy’s southern Calabria region is the historical home of the ’Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful organized crime groups.

But the ’Ndrangheta has long branched out from Calabria, making substantial inroads across Europe, North America and Australia, and is considered the leading smuggler of cocaine into Europe.

Although violent crimes have dropped significantly in Italy during its coronavirus lockdown, authorities are worried that the Sicilian mafia, also known as the Coss Nostra, and the ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra syndicates in Calabria, are taking advantage of the situation for purposes of extortion and loan-sharking.

With unemployment climbing, people in Sicily have reported receiving much needed funds, essential supplies, and groceries from local mafia members.

The practice of appearing to step in with help where state institutions are lacking has long been a tactic of maintaining control and gathering tacit public approval throughout the Cosa Nostra’s centuries-long history.

— Agence France-Presse/DW.com/Times of Malta

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.