Rome, Jan 22 (IANS) Forty-eight people were arrested in Italy as part of a large anti-mafia operation that also involved a national political leader, according to prosecutors and local media reports.
Coordinated by Catanzaro chief prosecutor Nicola Gratteri and carried out by some 370 officers from the country’s various police forces, the investigation targeted powerful families of the ‘Ndrangheta mob rooted in the southern Calabria region, reports Xinhua news agency.
Thirteen people were brought to jail and another 35 put under house arrests, among them were several businesspeople, civil servants, and white collars, authorities said on Thursday.
The alleged mafia members involved belonged to the clans of Aracri, Arena, and Grande Aracri, all of them based in the province of Crotone.
All those arrested were charged variously with mafia association, collusion with mafia group, vote-buying, and other mafia-related crimes.
Among those still under investigation but not targeted by arrest warrant was Lorenzo Cesa, leader of opposition party Union of Christian Centrists (UDC).
Officers of the Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) searched his residence in Rome on Thursday morning, the official Ansa news agency reported.
In a statement, Cesa confirmed that he received a notice of investigation on events dating back in 2017, and he would immediately step down as party leader.
He denied any wrongdoing, adding that he would ask to be summoned by prosecutors as soon as possible to clear his position, having full trust in the magistrates’ work.
“The probe this time shows a direct relationship between ‘Ndrangheta, entrepreneurs, and politics,” Gratteri told a press conference later in the day.
Civil servants and business people involved would have been “fully aware that they were dealing with representatives of the mafia families operating in the Crotone province”, the anti-mafia prosecutor alleged.
The probe would have ascertained an illegal movement of money worth over 300 million euros ($364 million), according to investigators, and an unspecified number of assets, including bank accounts, real estate properties and vehicles, were seized in the operation.
Since the early 2000s, the ‘Ndrangheta is believed to have become the most powerful and the richest of Italy’s three crime syndicates — the others being Cosa Nostra in Sicily and Camorra in the Campania region around Naples.
It is widely believed by Italian and European investigators to lead the cocaine traffic between South America and Europe.