di Davide Marchetta
Rome, July 26 - Senator Piero Aiello, a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, is under investigation as part of a mafia probe that led to the arrest of 65 people in the southern city of Lamezia Terme Friday. The probe, which also led to the seizure of 200 million euros worth of assets from five businessmen on Friday, is centred on alleged crimes linked to the Giampà clan of the Calabrian-based 'Ndrangheta mafia syndicate. A judge rejected a request from anti-mafia investigators in the Calabrian city of Catanzaro for Aiello to be arrested. The investigation focuses on alleged insurance fraud which the Giampà clan used to raise millions of euros to buy arms and drugs and pay its recruits. The 65 people arrested include entrepreneurs, local politicians, lawyers, doctors and members of the penitentiary police. Among them is Gianpaolo Bevilacqua, the vice president of the company that runs Lamezia Terme airport and a former provincial councillor for the PdL. One of the lawyers arrested is accused of involvement in the paying the clam to obtain votes at Lamezia Terme city elections in 2010. The investigation also concerns a number of murders committed in a war between clans from 2005 to 2011. "The importance of this operation is not just in the number and the characteristics of the people under investigation and the quantity of police officers employed, which was around 400," Catanzaro police chief Guido Marino told ANSA. "Above all, the important thing is that we know we have reconstructed and, in part, dismantled a full-blown mafia system". 'Ndrangheta controls swathes of Calabria and, thanks to its control of the European cocaine trade, has infiltrated the economies of northern Italy, northern Europe, Canada, Australia and other countries. It is now ranked Italy's most powerful mafia, having overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra, and the one hardest to recruit informants from.