Rossano (Cosenza)

PdL councillor arrested in major 'Ndrangheta operation

Soccer club used by mafia clan to launder money

PdL councillor arrested in major 'Ndrangheta operation

Rossano (Cosenza), June 19 - Police arrested 28 people, including a city councilor, and seized 40 million euros in assets Wednesday during a major operation against a clan of the 'Ndrangheta mafia with fingers in everything from running cafes to owing a soccer club to money laundering. Arrests were carried out across Italy, towns and cities including Vigevano, Viterbo, Parma, Cuneo and Rossano where lawyer and city councilor Ivan Nicoletti, elected in May 2011, was picked up. Police say they suspect the Acri-Morfo clan manipulated that election to ensure that Nicoletti, who represents ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, won a seat on council. Nicoletti faces charges of mafia association while others are suspected of election fraud and voter intimidation in connection with that election. Police say that one voter in Rossano was even beaten to force him to vote for Nicoletti. Other charges against the 28 range from mafia association and criminal conspiracy, attempted murder, receiving stolen property, extortion, drug dealing, robbery and fraudulent transfer of assets. Police believe that money was laundered by the gang through an amateur soccer club, SSC Rossanese, controlled by Orazio Acri, one of the 28 arrested Wednesday. Police seized the assets of 17 businesses, 25 properties that include land and apartments, 45 cars, seven insurance policies, bank accounts and wads of cash. They say the clan controlled all coffee sales in the area of Rossano, located deep in Italy's southern region of Calabria. The gang demanded that all businesses in the area, from seaside establishments to bars and cafes, use only Pellegrino Caffe or in a pinch, Jamaican Caffe or Pi.gi Caffe. Wiretaps also suggested the clan was investing in cafes and ice cream parlours in the United States.

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