In mafia drug raids, 25 arrested in Italy, Belgium, Germany

ROME (Reuters) - Authorities have arrested 25 people in Italy, Belgium and Germany in pan-European raids linked to an alleged drug- trafficking ring run by the 'Ndrangheta mafia, Italian police said on Monday.

The criminal organisation operated from Calabria, the traditional home of the 'Ndrangheta, but also had an outpost in Germany as it imported "large quantities" of cocaine, heroin and hashish, customs police Guardia di Finanza said.

The suspects are accused of various crimes, including criminal conspiracy and drug trafficking, and had assets worth 3.8 million euros ($4.06 million) seized from them, including real estate, land and businesses.

In a separate statement, the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office said eight of the suspects were arrested in Belgium and a ninth one was apprehended in Germany through a Belgian arrest warrant.

The 'Ndrangheta, which has surpassed Sicily's Cosa Nostra as Italy's most powerful mafia group, is known to have spread its tentacles across the globe, largely thanks to its role as a major smuggler of cocaine from Latin America to Europe.

Belgian authorities said the arrests were linked to a previous operation which, in 2015, shed light on a 'Ndrangheta clan that imported cocaine from South America to southern Italy via Belgium, with a "logistical" base in Frankfurt, Germany.

Recent investigations, "enriched by a mass of information" from SKY ECC, a dismantled encrypted phone network once favoured by criminals, helped uncover a cocaine extraction lab near the port of Antwerp in June 2021, the Belgian statement said.

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(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, additional reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Bernadette Baum)