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Italian Cops Go After Organized Crime

October 21, 2005

ROME (AP) _ Police said Friday they had arrested scores of people across Europe in a crackdown on organized crime, days after a local politician was fatally shot at an Italian polling station in a suspected mob hit.

A total of 58 people were arrested for drug trafficking over two days in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Serbia-Montenegro, police said. Three others were arrested in the southern Calabria region of Italy for their alleged role in the 2004 murder of ’ndrangheta crime syndicate boss Antonio Dragone, police said.

Police said the arrests were a response to Sunday’s killing of center-left politician Francesco Fortugno, who was shot as he voted in a nationwide primary in the small Calabrian town of Locri. Authorities have blamed the slaying on the ’ndrangheta, though the investigation is continuing.

``(The arrests) show that the police forces’ action against Calabrian criminal groups is effective, even now that they have struck with such ferocity,″ said Interior Ministry Undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano.

The ’ndrangheta was believed to have smuggled cocaine from South America through Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, said police Maj. Valerio Giardina. He said searches turned up more than 100 pounds of cocaine and several guns.

Those arrested included about 15 people from Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, and 10 from Serbia-Montenegro, Giardina said. The others were Italians, mostly from Calabria, on the southeastern tip of the Italian mainland.

Authorities say the ‘ndrangheta is becoming more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia in organized crime activities in Italy. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said in a speech to parliament Thursday that the ’ndrangheta has become ``the most deep-rooted, the most powerful and the most aggressive of the Italian criminal organizations.″

He said the group has now branched out internationally, controlling drug trafficking and investing in financial activities worldwide.

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