ROME (AP) — Italian police on Wednesday were carrying out a crackdown against international drug trafficking across Europe and in the United States and Latin America.
Police allege that the 'ndrangheta organized crime syndicate has been importing drugs into Italy and Europe through deals with Colombian drug cartels and with Mexico's Gulf Cartel. Customs officials seized hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, which was to be divvied up among various 'ndrangheta clans and then put onto the market, police said.
"It's a very big operation involving six countries worldwide," said Nicola Gratteri, the organized crime prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, the southern Italian region where the 'ndrangheta is based.
Gratteri, speaking on Italy's Radio24, said the 'ndrangheta is the biggest importer of cocaine into Europe. He declined to give details of the operation before a press conference later Wednesday.
The Carabinieri said that arrests were made in regions including Calabria, Sicily and Lombardy in the north. European arrest warrants were targeting five suspected traffickers in the Netherlands and Spain, they said. Police were also seeking the arrest of three people in Colombia, the United States and Venezuela.
The ANSA news agency said the operation targeted some 40 suspects in total.
The 'ndrangheta is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia and has become one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers. A 2007 gangland style massacre of six people in Germany highlighted the international reach of the crime syndicate.