More than 50 people have been arrested in a raid against one of the most powerful mafia groups in the world.
The raid on the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, dubbed Operation Karpanthos, involved more than 400 officers from Carabinieri police.
Some 38 people have been jailed, six put under house arrest and eight given orders not to leave their hometowns, the force said.
The operation was led by prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy’s best-known anti-mafia investigators.
Police said the mafia group was linked to large-scale drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion.
The ‘Ndrangheta supplanted Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as the country’s most powerful mafia organisation earlier this year and has spread across Europe and the rest of the world.
The group originates from Calabria, the impoverished southern region at the tip of Italy’s boot. It expanded substantially from the 1970s onwards, when it reinvested ransom money from kidnappings - one of its main activities at the time - into public work projects and drug trafficking, especially cocaine.
The ‘Ndrangheta kidnapped dozens of high-profile victims, including celebrities such as John Paul Getty III, the scion of the US oil family, abducted in Rome in 1973 and held prisoner for five months in the Calabrian mountains.
In its latest six-monthly report, Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) calls the ‘Ndrangheta “the absolute dominant force in the criminal world” well beyond its home turf.
The ‘Ndrangheta is known to have an established presence as far as Canada and Australia, as well as in most of Western Europe, with local cells that usually retain strong links with their Calabrian homeland.
Italian prosecutors and investigators routinely complain that their European counterparts underestimate the extent to which the Calabrian mob has infiltrated their countries, and say all EU nations should copy Italy’s tough anti-mafia laws.