Scores arrested in massive European Union crackdown on organised crime network

Masked police stand in an ice parlor in Duisburg western Germany Wednesday Dec. 5 2018 as authorities conduct coordinated raids in Germany Italy Belgium and the Netherlands in a crackdown on the Italian mafia

In Germany, federal police said there had been multiple arrests in the early morning raids.

Law enforcement and judicial officials speak at a press conference organized by Eurojust in The Hague, Netherlands, on December 5, 2018.

"This is not just happening in Italy, it is happening on other countries", Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho warned and said Wednesday's operation was just a "first step".

Hundreds of police are understood to have been involved in the operation in Belgium, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. BKA figures show that in 2017, 14 organized crime cases were filed against members of Italian mafia groups, half of which were attributed to 'Ndrangheta.

Eurojust said those detained are suspected of drug trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and violence. The focus was on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders the Netherlands and Belgium, and Bavaria to the south.

The 'Ndrangheta - whose heartland is the southern Calabria region - is one of the three main mafia groups in Italy, along with the Sicilian mafia and the Camorra. His arrest was among the 46 people taken into custody.

A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecution department refused to give any more information, the AD said, adding that the raids in the Netherlands involve "dozens" of locations.

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The 'ndrangheta "is the most important organized crime group in the world", said Gen. Alessandro Barbera, who commands the investigative unit of Italy's financial police corps.

European police agency Europol called it a "decisive hit against one of the most powerful Italian criminal networks in the world".

Two arrests were made in Luxembourg, and five in the Netherlands, Eurojust said.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who is Italian, sent "congratulations" to the police forces involved, adding: "Europe fights 'Ndrangheta criminal groups".

The raids came a day after Italian police arrested Settimo Mineo, the new head of Sicily's Cosa Nostra mafia.

Dutch outlet NOS said that the 'Ndrangheta is known to operate its drug smuggling through the country's vibrant flower-trading industry.

Mineo, 80, was detained along with at least 45 others just before he was due to be appointed official heir to notorious mafia boss Toto Riina who died in prison previous year.

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