Italian Police Make Over 100 Arrests in Massive Mafia Bust

antimafiarome2013In “one of the largest operations ever carried out” in Rome, the Italian police conducted sweeping raids targeting top mafia crime bosses. More than 100 suspects were arrested Friday in duo operations within Rome and the country’s southern Calabria region.

In Ostia, a costal community near the capital, police arrested 51 suspects for alleged crimes connected with Italy’s notorious Sicilian Mafia, which is known as Cosa Nostra. The allegations include extortion, murder, international drug trafficking and illegal control of the slot machine market. The other 65 arrests made in Calabria involved suspected connections to the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia.

Among those arrested were entrepreneurs, politicians and lawyers.

More than 500 police officers, maritime and dog units were involved in the massive raids. Police believe that the initiatives delivered an incredible blow to the Mafia and its leadership, going so far as to call the blow “mortal.”

Some entire clans have been arrested. Alleged Mafia boss Carmine Fasciani is among those detained. Vincenzo Triassi and his wife, members of another clan, were arrested with the assistance of Interpol, a police statement noted. The couple was on the Spanish island of Tenerife, and the two are now being held in a Spanish jail while they await extradition proceedings. Two other suspects were arrested in Barcelona.

“For practically the past 20 years, members of the Fasciani and Triassi clans have carried out their business in Rome, dividing up the territory in a sort of Mafia pax, under which each was able to calmly carry out its own illegal trafficking,” noted a police official.

The sweeping raids were aimed particularly at gangsters affiliated with the Sicilian Mafia who had infiltrated that Italian capital. Over the years, they had been buying restaurants as fronts for large-scale criminal activities. In the second sting, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, prison police and even politicians were arrested in connection with Mafia leadership in a city near Calabria.

According to a police statement, the gangs of criminals made millions of euros each year through insurance fraud. They would then use the earnings to buy firearms and drugs.

A History Of Violence

Since its growth in the middle of the 19th century, organized crime has infiltrated the social and economic life of many in Southern Italy. The Sicilian Mafia is the most notorious crime family, originally formed from groups of bandits. There are many well-known Mafia-esque organizations currently in Italy, including ‘Ndranghta of Calabria, Camorra of Naples and, more recently, Stidda and Sacra Corona Unita of Puglia.

The Sicilian Mafia took advantage of the rapid boost in building construction in the 1950s. They made millions of dollars from these endeavors and began experimenting with large-scale heroin trafficking throughout Italy, the rest of Europe and the U.S.

Today, this Southern Italian unit has evolved into an international group of organized criminals. There are over 2,500 Sicilian Mafia affiliates in the U.S. alone, making it the country’s most powerful and active organized crime group. The group focuses on heroin trafficking, political corruption and military arms trafficking.

From 1950s to the 1990s in Italy, the Sicilian Mafia had great power thanks to corrupt Christian Democratic governments. The intimidating criminals pressured lawyers, financiers and professionals. The group bribed and squeezed judges, politicians and administrators.

Many went along with the group’s out of fear, giving in to the “if you can’t beat them…” mentality. The Mafia crew became infamous for their aggressiveness and their reckless assaults on Italian law enforcement bodies. They’ve enacted countless high-ranked killings including the slayings of mayors, judges, commissioners, generals and Parliament members.

In 1992, Italian Magistrate Giovanni Falcone and his team were preparing to crack down on Mafia leadership and were preparing cases against many of the leaders. On May 23 in what is now called the Capaci Massacre, the Sicilian Mafia to take matters into their own hands instead of waiting for the fall. That evening, a bomb that produced a 30-foot crater in the road where Falcone was driving exploded, killing Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards. Two months later, the Mafia killed Falcone’s replacement, Judge Paolo Borsellino.

After the 1993 arrest of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, who was believed to be responsible for hundreds of killings, the rate of Mafia killings sharply dropped. The arrest came after years of investigations which some suggest were delayed because of Mafia infiltration within the police.

The ‘Ndrangheta clan, whose name means “courage” or “loyalty” in Greek, has also amassed immense power over the years. The tight-knitted group has been difficult to penetrate, specializing in prostitution, extortion, illegal construction and drugs and arms trafficking.