160 held as anti-mafia police seize £44m assets from alleged crime empire
Anti-mafia police have seized 50 million euros (£44 million) in assets and detained more than 160 people in Italy and Germany, accusing them of running a huge mob-controlled empire.
The organisation involved everything from bread and wine sales to funeral services, migrant housing and waste recycling, investigators said.
Prosecutors in southern Italy said the 'ndrangheta's Farao-Marincola clan had its hand in just about every financial enterprise in the Calabrian town of Ciro, and it extended to cities throughout Italy and parts of Germany.
Specifically, prosecutors accused the bosses of driving out all the bakery competition in Ciro so residents and restaurants were forced to buy their bread from the one mob-controlled bakers.
Italian restaurants in Germany were apparently forced to import Italian wine and other goods from a clan-controlled Italian association.
"They controlled all the economic activity in entire towns," prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told a press conference.
"It concerned all commercial activity, and obviously political power as well."
Italy's 'ndrangheta has increasingly eclipsed the Cosa Nostra in power and wealth, infiltrating all sectors of Italian economic and political life and spreading out from its base in Calabria to Rome, Milan and beyond.
The mob's presence in Germany first made headlines in 2007 when a family feud between Calabrian clans turned a birthday party at a Duisberg pizzeria into a bloody massacre that left six dead.
Prosecutors said in this case, the Farao-Marincola clan managed to exert such control because of its wealth and ability to corrupt politicians, and did not need to resort to the violence that long characterised traditional mafia activity.
In Germany, the federal criminal police office said 11 people were arrested in western Germany, accused of blackmail and money-laundering.
The areas involved included Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, according to Eurojust, which helped co-ordinate the investigation.
Prosecutors in Italy said the Italian suspects were accused of mafia association, attempted murder, extortion, money-laundering, illegal weapons possession and other charges.