'Ndrangheta mafia structure revealed as Italian police nab 300 alleged mobsters
'Ndrangheta mafia top bosses were seized in the sweeping crackdown, say Italian police.
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That became clear when the Lombard branch, empowered by its riches, attempted to exert autonomy and was cut short when the Calabrian bosses sent a professional killer to murder the would-be upstarts, Pignatone said.Skip to next paragraph
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The 'ndrangheta has emerged as one of the most powerful of the crime syndicates, even if only since February has Italian law recognized it as a criminal organization. From Calabria, it has spread its tentacles to northern Italy, where it migrated in the 1970s and 1980s, to Germany, and as far away as Canada and Australia.
Investigators described the operation as one of the biggest blows ever to an organization that is now considered to be more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia. The raids involved 3,000 police across the country and the charges against those arrested ranged from murder and extortion to arms and drug trafficking and criminal association.
The last big operation against the Calabrian mob dates to the 1990s. Since then, the 'ndrangheta has expanded its power, mainly through its grip on drug trafficking.
But what Grasso said was particularly worrisome was the crime group's infiltration into the economic arena, a form of mafia entrepreneurship, with the ability to get an inside track when contracts are handed out. Among those arrested was the head of the state health system in the city of Pavia, south of Milan.
Prosecutors emphasized that wiretaps were a key to the 'ndrangheta investigation, but declined to speculate on how a proposed new bill that would limit the use of electronic eavesdropping might have affected their work.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has been stung by some embarrassing disclosure in published transcripts of private conversations mostly unrelated to investigations, is pushing the measures through parliament.
While terrorism and mafia investigations are exempt from the proposed restrictions, magistrates complain that big probes often stem from low-level criminal cases. Passage of the law, they say, will give criminals operating in Italy protection.
The restrictions include a strict time limit on wiretaps, which prosecutors say is insufficient, and a level of proof needed to obtain permission to launch the wiretaps that investigators charge is tantamount to evidence needed for a conviction.
"Today we violated the privacy of many 'ndranghetisti," Grasso quipped.