At least 90 Ndrangheta mafia members arrested in Europe-wide raids

German police raided a cafe in Duisburg as part of the operation

Police arrested dozens of suspected mobsters in Europe and South America on Wednesday in a huge worldwide swoop targeting Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia clan, officials said.

Authorities said they conducted raids in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the 'Ndrangheta, a southern Italy-based organized crime group.

Officials hailed Wednesday's operation - dubbed "Operation Pollina" - as a serious blow to the group.

Dutch chief public prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said Wednesday dozens of raids also netted about 2 million euros in criminal proceeds as well as drugs including ecstasy and cocaine. BKA figures show that in 2017, 14 organized crime cases were filed against members of Italian mafia groups, half of which were attributed to 'Ndrangheta. The AD said previous year that Dutch police had introduced a special police unit completely dedicated to fighting mafia activities on Dutch soil.

In Germany, the raids - which are part of Operation Pollino - are focused on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the mafia has traditionally had a large presence.

Two arrests were made in Luxembourg, and five in the Netherlands, Eurojust said.

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Federico Cafiero De Raho, a prosecutor in Italy, told the press conference that every year about 1.5 tons of cocaine are seized in just a single port in Italy, and said that 'Ndrangheta's smuggling operations in other European ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp, amount to "tons and tons of cocaine".

But he warned that it was "just a first step", saying the arrests were "nothing for the 'Ndrangheta, there are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions that should be seized".

Hoppe said the crime organization's drug trafficking operations are extensive and sophisticated, with the use of "human money mules and vehicles with special hiding compartments".

European police agency Europol called it a "decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world".

Italian police arrested Settimo Mineo, 80, Tuesday, who authorities believe to be the lead Mafia boss who replaced the late Salvatore Riina.

Jeweller Mineo, 80, was detained with at least 45 others just before he was due to be appointed official heir to notorious mafia boss Toto Riina, who died in prison previous year.

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