169 arrested in Italy, Germany in operation targeting Calabrian mafia

People sit at outdoor tables at a restaurant in Italy

In the biggest crackdown in two decades, police in Italy and Germany have issued arrest warrants for 169 mafia suspects they accuse of running a criminal empire ranging from vineyards and ports to bakeries, toxic waste disposal and funeral homes.

Those arrested, including three mayors and several city councilors, are suspected of being involved with the 'Ndrangheta mafia faction based in the southwestern region of Calabria in Italy. And they said that Italian restaurants in Germany, meanwhile, were forced to import Italian wine, olive oil and other goods from a clan-controlled Italian restaurant association.

The operation stemmed from an investigation into the activities of the Farao-Marincola clan. The arrests took place in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.

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As for its illegal businesses in Italy, according to the Calabria police, the Farao-Marincola clan developed "a criminal holding, with a pervasive infiltration" of various economic sectors, including agribusiness, garbage collection, slot-machines, migrant assistance and public tenders.

Some $60m worth of property was also seized in the joint operation against the 'Ndrangheta mafia, Italy's police and Eurojust said on Tuesday.

Some were arrested on suspicion of blackmail, attempted murder, money laundering and other organised crime offences.

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The aim was "to limit the use of violence as much as possible and avoid the internal struggles that are bad for business", Italian police said in a statement.

Wiretaps revealed the gang had expanded to Germany and was intimidating "owners of restaurants, pizza and ice cream parlours, forcing them to buy products from the companies controlled by the criminal group".

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