German, Italian police carry out mafia arrests

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Police in Germany and Italy arrested 35 alleged mafia members on Tuesday and five warrants have been issued in Australia and Canada in what is being described as a major blow to the 'Ndrangheta syndicate.

"We have hit at the central structure of the 'Ndrangheta," Carlo Pieroni, a spokesman for Carabinieri paramilitary police in the southern Italian region of Calabria who led the operation, told AFP.

"The 'Ndrangheta is on the brink or at least it will be forced to re-organise," he said, adding that the arrests were on multiple charges of extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Pieroni said the people arrested in Germany, as well as those targeted by three warrants in Canada and two in Australia, were accused of recycling illicit funds from Italy in shops and small construction businesses.

One of the men arrested in Italy hid in a bunker for several hours.

"We surrounded his house, which was in the countryside. He hid in a bunker under the house and we negotiated to get him out and arrest him. We didn't want to go in with pneumatic drills to dig him out," Pieroni added.

The 'Ndrangheta is one of the most powerful and secretive global crime syndicates and plays a key role in the illicit drug market. The group has an an estimated annual turnover of tens of billions of euros (dollars).

© 2011 AFP

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