Mafia fugitives nabbed in global drugs, arms smuggling sting

LYON (AFP) – Six alleged members of the powerful Italian mafia group ‘Ndrangheta have been arrested in Albania, Argentina and Costa Rica for suspected drugs and weapons smuggling, police agency Interpol said yesterday.

The suspects are thought to have links to the ‘Ndrangheta’s Bellocco clan from Rosarno in southern Italy, which is implicated in importing South American drugs by boat from Argentina and Costa Rica, it said in a statement.

In a joint operation overseen by Interpol and Italian police, three fugitive gang members were arrested in Buenos Aires, one in the Albanian capital Tirana, and another in Costa Rica this week. A sixth suspect, who evaded arrest last year under an operation of the 11-nation anti-’Ndrangheta I-CAN project, was picked up in Albania in May.

“The operations and ensuing investigations enabled police to completely dismantle the ‘Bellocco’ ‘Ndrangheta family clan in Rosarno (Reggio Calabria) along with its regional branches, arresting all top members of the family operating across Italy,” it added.

The latest arrests came after I-CAN rounded up 45 ‘Ndrangheta members across Italy last year.

The ‘Ndrangheta, based in Italy’s Calabria region, surpassed Sicily’s better-known Cosa Nostra to become the country’s most powerful mafia group, operating across the world.

“The ‘Ndrangheta represents a threat that silently polluted the economy of more than 30 countries around the world,” said deputy director of public security for Italy’s criminal police Prefect Rizzi.

“The only way it can be countered is through a more powerful global network,” he added.

In May, Italian police targetted 63 people in an operation that uncovered “systematic fraud” in public work tenders, valued at over EUR100 million and which included EU funds.

And a major police sting against the group in December resulted in the arrest of 334 people, including a police colonel and a former MP.