Handout picture released and taken May 3, 2023 by the Bavarian police (Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt) shows heavily armed police entering a building in Munich, southern Germany, as part of a "wide-scale" operation against the notorious Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia across Europe. (PHOTO / AFP)
FRANKFURT – German and Italian police have arrested more than 100 people on Wednesday in a crackdown on the Italian 'Ndrangheta organized crime group, German public prosecutors and police in the two countries said.
The suspects are accused of money laundering, criminal tax evasion, fraud and the smuggling of drugs, mafia-type criminal association, and the possession and trafficking of weapons.
State police said Italian and Belgian investigators believe that the crime group smuggled close to 25 tons of cocaine between October 2019 and January 2022 and funneled more than €22 million ($24.2 million) from Calabria to Belgium, the Netherlands and South America
The arrests were part of a coordinated investigation by Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, German authorities said.
The 'Ndrangheta, which has its roots in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy's boot, has surpassed Cosa Nostra as the most powerful mafia group in the country, and one of the largest criminal networks in the world.
Italy's Carabinieri police carried out 108 arrests across the country in an investigation based in the southern city of Reggio Calabria, they said in a statement. A further 15 people were detained on the orders of police in the northwestern port of Genoa.
ALSO READ: EU warns of crime risks from govt sales of passports, visas
German police also arrested dozens of suspects in early morning raids.
In Belgium, police raided more than 20 addresses, prosecutors said, adding they would provide more details at a news conference later in the morning.
State police in Bavaria said the arrests were the result of more than three years of an investigation dubbed "Operation Eureka".
They said Italian and Belgian investigators believe that the crime group smuggled close to 25 tons of cocaine between October 2019 and January 2022 and funneled more than €22 million ($24.2 million) from Calabria to Belgium, the Netherlands and South America.
Among those arrested in Germany were four people in Bavaria, 15 in North Rhine-Westphalia, and 10 in the southwestern state of Rhineland Palatinate. Police seized potential evidence at dozens of locations including homes and offices.
READ MORE: Germans fret over exploding ATMs as cross-border crime wave hits
Two suspects who were under investigation in the western state of Saarland, were arrested in Italy. Police did not identify them, but said one was 47 years old and the other 25.
A man was arrested in Spain's southern city of Malaga as part of the coordinated investigation, Spanish police said, without giving further details.
German prosecutors and the Carabinieri police said they would hold two separate news conferences later on Wednesday.