A joint investigation by Germany and Italy into the activities of the ‘ndrangheta criminal organization has led to the arrest of 31 people suspected of drug trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion.
Italian authorities hailed what they called a “new model of collaboration” and said experts from the two countries formed a joint squad to conduct the investigation, which was complicated by the encrypted phones the suspects were using. .
The Europol and Eurojust agencies, which coordinate law enforcement activities in Europe, said more than 800 police and tax officials participated in the operation in Italy and Germany.
Italy’s leading anti-mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, said the investigation confirmed the deep infiltration of the legitimate economy by the Cambria-based ’ndrangheta.
The suspects were apparently using businesses such as restaurants, car dealerships and food companies to launder the proceeds from the sale of cocaine.
“It is a criminal system which infiltrates the economy and shows that the ‘ndrangheta is very dangerous, specifically because it pollutes the economy of the different countries where it manages to establish itself”, said Mr. Federico Cafiero De. Raho.
The chief prosecutor of the German city of Konstanz, Johannes-Georg Roth, explained at a press conference that the investigation uncovered extensive “systemic tax evasion” in Italian pizzerias and restaurants across Germany .
Mr Roth explained that restaurant owners import Italian food and avoid paying taxes in Germany.
Europol and Eurojust said in a statement that hundreds of thousands of euros were seized, along with weapons, cocaine, two luxury cars and jewelry.