Operation Pollino: ‘Ndrangheta mafia struck in Europe-wide sting

A sign on a yellow-painted two-story house declares this Italian restaurant to be Osteria Da Mario - but two police officers guard its open door in this dawn photoImage copyright

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In Pulheim, Germany, police struck with a dawn raid on a local Italian restaurant

Members of the notorious ‘Ndrangheta Italian mafia have been targeted in a police sting launched simultaneously in several countries on Wednesday.

Hundreds of police are understood to be involved in the operation in Belgium, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Italian police said there have been at least 90 arrests – but the operation is still ongoing elsewhere.

The ‘Ndrangheta mafia are accused of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence.

Homes, Italian restaurants and other businesses were all targeted in the raids.

Eurojust – the European judicial cooperation body involved – said operation “Pollino” had been in motion since 2016, and that official details would be released at a news conference later on Wednesday.

The ‘Ndrangheta mafia comes from Calabria in southern Italy. While the Sicilian Mafia was made famous in films and television, ‘Ndrangheta is thought to control as much as 80% of Europe’s cocaine trade, and with some 6,000 members, is a substantial and far-spread force in European crime.

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Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that the German operation was mostly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia – a stronghold for the mafia – and involved 240 police and another 240 support staff from the federal criminal agency.

Dutch outlet NOS said that the ‘Ndrangheta are known to operate its drug smuggling through the country’s vibrant flower-trading industry. Meanwhile, in Belgium, broadcaster VRT reported that police were focused on the province of Limburg.

The operation comes a day after Italian police arrested the supposed new “godfather” of the Sicilian Mafia, Settimo Mineo, in a dawn raid.

The 80-year-old jeweller is believed to have been chosen as the successor to Toto Riina, who died in jail a year ago. The new leader of the Cosa Nostra network was arrested alongside some 45 associates, in a move Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said “dismantled” the leadership.