Italy lands big blow to mafia in Rome, Calabria

Sweep near capital biggest in decades

Italy lands big blow to mafia in Rome, Calabria

(by Kate Carlisle) Rome, July 26 - Two heavy blows were served to mafia activity in Italy on Friday with sweeping arrests near Rome and more arrests related to a separate probe in the southern city of Lamezia Terme. At least 51 people were arrested Friday in a massive, no-bars-held anti-mafia operation in Rome aimed at squelching criminal operations up and down the coast around the Italian capital. About 500 officers from several law-enforcement agencies were involved, including special forces units, helicopter patrols and canine squads. Police say it is one of the largest anti-mafia sweeps in Rome's history. The stretch of Italy's southern mafias has recently penetrated the country's capital and further north, including Europe, worrying police and anti-mafia investigators. Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said that the "operation was carried out brilliantly. It is an important result that strengthens confidence in public institutions and secures our territory". Key targets included the Fasciani, Triassi and D'Agati clans, which have shared the criminal spoils of the region for approximately 20 years, especially along the sea shore, in what has been dubbed a "pax mafia". Police say agents of the two clans dealt with land management, planned murders and kept out rival criminals as they ran gambling operations, controlled slot machine gaming and other kinds of beach-related activity. Entire families within the Fasciani clan have been arrested, including alleged leaders and siblings Carmine, Giuseppe, and Terenzio Nazarene. Also arrested were Vito and Vincenzo Triassi who have lifelong ties with the Sicilian Mafia known as 'Cosa Nostra'. Charges range from international drug trafficking and extortion to mafia affiliation. Police also allege some gang members infiltrated municipal operations in the beachside town of Ostia, where earlier this month Rome police conducted raids. Some of Friday's charges relate to allocation of social housing managed by the municipality. Earlier this month, Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino removed one manager and a staff member from the administrative office under suspicions tied to allegedly granting mafia members prized space to operate kiosks. Several Ostia employees were said to be under investigation for abuse of office and corruption. Friday's raids included international authorities that raided the Spanish island of Tenerife, which has Triassi connections. In a separate anti-mafia operation on Friday Senator Piero Aiello, a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, was placed under investigation as part of a mafia probe that led to the arrest of 65 people in the southern city of Lamezia Terme. 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 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 tracked down 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.

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