The Italian police has arrested 54 people believed to be connected to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan after National Crime Agency (NCA) intelligence led investigators to a plot to import eight tonnes of cocaine into Europe.
Assets worth 8 million Euros were seized as more than 500 Italian law enforcement officers made arrests in eight regions of the country.
Some 20kg of cannabis was seized as well as ammunition for pistols and automatic weapons.
Italian policer officers began their investigation in 2014 after the NCA passed on information through the country’s central counter-narcotics agency about an organised crime group concerned in a plot to smuggle drugs into Italy.
NCA officers continued to provide intelligence to Italian investigators as their investigation led them to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan, which occupies a prominent position in the European illegal drugs trade.
When a test-run shipment of 63 kg of cocaine was organised in August 2015, Italian customs seized the drugs at the port of Livorno, disguising the operation as routine activity while the investigation continued.
A series of splinter operations followed, revealing the alleged plot to import 8000kg of cocaine.
The 54 arrests mark the culmination of this joint activity and underline the value of the NCA’s international reach.
Steve Reynolds, deputy director of the NCA’s international command, said: “Disrupting the trade in drugs in Europe deprives organised crime groups of vital revenue. This has a direct impact on their level of activity.
“Frustrating those involved in wholesale operations upstream of the UK market is one of the most effective ways to protect our country from the threat posed by illegal drugs, which is strongly associated with high levels of violence and exploitation.
“Our work with international partners protects people in many countries, and its benefits ultimately lead back to the UK.”