Suspected mafia members arrested in coordinated worldwide raids

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'Judicial and law enforcement authorities from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Belgium are now executing arrests and seizures against a Ndrangheta criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, bribery and violence, ' European legal cooperation organisation Eurojust said in a statement.

The Wednesday morning raids took place in Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands in connection with the roundup.

The 'Ndrangheta, centered in the Calabria region, is one of Italy's three main organised crime groups, along with the Camorra, which is based in the Naples area, and Sicily's Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia.

Italian police hailed the co-operation between European police forces co-ordinated by Eurojust, saying it was an important new crime-fighting tactic that allowed investigators in different countries to share information in real time.

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

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said they had also probed ice cream parlours, adding that together with restaurants "the suspicion is that the mafia organisation is laundering money through these establishments and they are used as a cover for their criminal organisations".

Ndrangheta is a mafia organisation from the south of Italy which has extended its influence to many other countries.

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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".

Wednesday's raids were the culmination of an investigation codenamed "Pollino" that was launched in 2016 against the 'Ndrangheta.

"Obviously we have not defeated 'Ndrangheta with this operation - 'Ndrangheta is extremely powerful and extremely rich", he said. Italian authorities said raids were also conducted in South America.

In Germany, the raids are focused on the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the mafia has traditionally had a large presence.

Some 2 million euros (2.3 million dollars) in criminal assets was seized, Eurojust Vice-President Filippo Spiezia said in The Hague.

Eurojust said those arrested Wednesday included "high-ranking members of the Mafia network", but didn't release their names.

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