Police operation (symbol image)
Photo: Friso Gentsch / dpa
The police in Germany, Italy and other European countries took action against Italy's powerful mafia organization 'Ndrangheta.
One focus of "Operation Platinum" was the Lake Constance region, as announced by the Konstanz public prosecutor and the Ravensburg police headquarters.
It concerns allegations of drug smuggling and tax evasion on a large scale.
Around 500 police officers and tax investigators were involved in the arrests and searches in Germany, and around 300 officers, as well as forces from the army and helicopters, were deployed in Italy.
"Today is a Nice Day for Law Enforcement"
"With this operation, we learned a lot about a crime that many do not believe exists in Germany," said Chief Public Prosecutor Johannes-Georg Roth from Konstanz at a joint press conference with his Italian colleagues in Turin.
"Today is a fine day for law enforcement and a bad day for the dark side of power."
The investigation had been directed, among other things, by the public prosecutor's office in the capital of the Piedmont region in northern Italy.
They were also active in Spain and Romanians.
According to German information, there were 46 searches in the raids, for example in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.
In Germany, the criminals also included tourist bars in their businesses, the investigators in Turin reported.
In Italy, investigators searched more than 40 objects in the regions of Piedmont, Calabria and Sardinia.
In total, the authorities spoke of around 90 suspects.
The allegations range from membership of a mafia association to cocaine trafficking with several hundred kilos to money laundering, extortion and sales tax fraud.
Years of investigation
The authorities in both countries praised the cooperation in the fight against the 'Ndrangheta as "exemplary".
The operation began several years ago, reported the Turin prosecutor Anna Maria Loreto.
The European authorities Europol and Eurojust were also involved.
Italian Mafia investigators said that the 'Ndrangheta' infiltration into the regular economy posed a threat.
Italy's Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese praised the action as a signal to stop the infiltration of the legal economy.
It is known from Italy that organized criminals took advantage of the lack of money in bars and pizzerias during the Corona crisis.
In some cases they also took over indebted shops under their own control.
In the network that has now been uncovered, the investigators identified two "branches of business": On the one hand, cocaine is said to have been transported from the Netherlands to Italy and sold there.
The police assume that there have been contacts with Colombian drug traffickers in the Netherlands and Spain.
The German 'Ndrangheta branch also focused on sales tax fraud and money laundering - for example in the food and car trade, it said.
For example, the gangs imported food from Italy.
The goods were reportedly delivered to Italian restaurants and dealers across Germany.
Sales taxes are said to have been embezzled and illegal profits brought back to Italy.
In addition, the sellers had put pressure on the shops to buy the products on certain terms.
On the German side, the Ravensburg police headquarters and the tax investigators from Ulm were involved.
In addition to drugs, data storage media, cell phones and cash were also confiscated.
"We have 'Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra and the like in our sights," said Baden-Württemberg Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU).
More than 80 suspects
In Germany, according to investigators, three arrest warrants have been issued, but only one of these suspects has been caught.
There were 30 arrest warrants in Italy.
The number of suspects in both countries was given as more than 80.
The 'Ndrangheta is one of the most powerful mafia organizations in the world.
It is native to the Calabria region, the tip of the Italian "boot".
The clans have long had strong pillars in Germany.
For example, members of the organization were responsible for the Mafia murders in Duisburg, in which six people were shot in front of a pizzeria in 2007.
The 'Ndrangheta dominates the international drug trade, but also earns its money in arms deals, money laundering, in the construction sector and in other branches of the economy.
In Italy, the authorities take major actions against mafia gangs almost every week.
Since January, a major trial against more than 300 suspected 'Ndrangheta members and their helpers has been going on in the southern Italian city of Lamezia Terme.
bbr / dpa / AFP