Police arrested dozens of suspected mobsters in Europe and South America on Wednesday in a huge global swoop targeting Italy's notorious 'Ndranghetamafia clan, officials said.
Hundreds of police in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands arrested at least 84 suspected mobsters and seized around two million euros ($3 million Cdn) on Wednesday in a series of co-ordinated raids targeting a powerful branch of the Italian Mafia.
The arrests came following an investigation dubbed Pollino that was launched in 2016 against the Italian mafia over allegations of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence.
Operation Pollino is being coordinated by the EU's Judicial Cooperation Unit, Eurojust.
German prosecutors said 65 premises linked to the southern Italy-based organised crime group were also being searched.
Federico Cafiero De Raho, a prosecutor in Italy, told the press conference that every year about 1.5 tons of cocaine are seized in just a single port in Italy, and said that 'Ndrangheta's smuggling operations in other European ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp, amount to "tons and tons of cocaine".
He also confirmed that there had been raids in Suriname, a small South American country that was once a Dutch colony.
It is the only mafia organisation operating on all continents, say prosecutors, and is believed to now be the most influential Italian organised-crime group.
"Today we send a clear message to organized crime groups across Europe", Eurojust Vice President Filippo Spiezia said.
He said the "unprecedented and extraordinary result", the fruit of a two-year operation, targeted "dangerous members of the 'Ndrangheta family deeply involved in drug trafficking and money laundering".
The Ndrangheta mafia operates from Calabria in southern Italy and is one of the world's largest crime syndicates, controlling as much as 80 percent of Europe's cocaine trade.
The Mafia group hails from Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy's boot, and has made substantial inroads in European countries. The focus was on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders the Netherlands and Belgium, and Bavaria to the south.
European police agency Europol called it a "decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world".
The 'Ndrangheta is considered the leading mafia group that managed to extend its reach even amid the scrutiny and constant arrests. "There are thousands of people who should be arrested and billions of euros that should be seized".