Eurojust and Europol have supported the competent authorities in Italy, Belgium and Germany in a new operation against international drug trafficking allegedly carried out by the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organisation. During a joint action day, thirty-one suspects were arrested and assets worth over EUR 3.8 million were seized. Over 840 officers participated in the actions on the ground.
The operation is a follow-up to a previous investigation conducted by the Italian authorities between 2013 and 2018 against the same criminal network. The suspects allegedly continued to use the existing and well-established network to transport mainly cocaine from South America to Germany and Italy via several European ports. To this end, the organised crime group (OCG) set up businesses in Germany to facilitate the drug smuggling. To cover its drug transports, the OCG used international companies trading in cars and food.
During an action day on 5 June, 31 suspects were arrested, 18 in Italy, 8 in Belgium and 5 in Germany. A total of 53 searches were carried out. Assets worth over EUR 3.8 million were seized, including cash, drugs, high-value vehicles and property.
The case was opened by Eurojust in August 2019 at the request of the Italian authorities. A joint investigation team (JIT) was set up between the Italian and German authorities with the support of Eurojust in February 2020. In March 2021, the JIT was extended to Belgium. The Agency hosted seven coordination meetings and facilitated the transmission and execution of many European Investigation Orders and requests for mutual legal assistance. A coordination centre was set up to enable rapid cooperation between the judicial authorities involved in the action day.
Europol has been providing continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the national investigators. During the operation, Europol deployed two of its officers in Belgium and Italy to facilitate the real-time coordination among all the partners involved, ensuring swift tactical decisions to adjust the strategy as required.
This case falls under the EMPACT Operational Action 2.3 on ‘Ndrangheta and the Sicilian mafia, the first EMPACT action led by the National Antimafia Directorate (Direzione Nazionale Antimafia) in which Europol and Eurojust are co-leaders.
The investigation and the Action Day itself have been supported by the @ON Network funded by the EU (Project ISF4@ON) led by the Italian Antimafia Investigation Directorate.
The following authorities took part in this investigation:
Italy: Public Prosecutor’s Office Catanzaro; Guardia di Finanza
Belgium: Federal PPO; Investigating judge at the court of first instance in Liège; Federal Judicial Police Liège
Germany: Police Frankfurt am Main