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Italian police bust Calabrian mob

By PETER SHADBOLT

ROME, July 18 -- Italian police in the southern city of Reggio Calabria served 317 arrest warrants against the 'Ndrangheta crime group Tuesday in one of the largest and most important operations ever launched against the Calabrian crime syndicate. Code-named 'Operation Olympia', the police dragnet stretched over the whole of the Italian peninsula with arrests made in the cities of Milan, Turin, Padova, Rome, Florence, Naples, Catania and Bari. Police said some 259 people had been issued with arrest warrants and that more than 500 people were under investigation for criminal association. A further 58 people already in custody also were issued with arrest warrants. Evidence from about 30 mob turncoats -- whose testimony has helped dent the ruling 'cupola' of the gang -- has allowed police to piece together a comprehensive history of the crime syndicate over the past 20 years. According to the evidence of the informers or 'pentiti', the murder in 1977 of 'Ndrangheta patriarch Domenico Tripodo sparked a mob war that claimed 500 lives as the De Stefano and Imerti clans battled for supremacy in Calabria. The ferocity of the war was such that members of the Sicilian Mafia -- the Cosa Nostra -- stepped in, in 1991, to negotiate a peace. In return, the 'Ndrangheta agreed to carry out the ambush and slaying of Supreme Court Judge Antonino Scopellitti. Police said 17 clans were investigated and the motive for more than 100 mob slayings revealed in the police probe. Lawmakers also were caught up in the investigation including former Social Democrat Paolo Romeo who received an arrest warrant and National Alliance lawmakers Fortunato Alio and Renato Meduri who both received advisory warrants warning them they were under investigation.

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Public prosecutor Salvatore Boemi told a news conference the mob had reached international proportions, boasting crime cells in Switzerland, Austria, the former Yugoslavia, as well as Canada, the United States, Australia and South America. 'This is not an organization that one can simplistically define as the 'Ndrangheta but something far bigger and much more complex,' Boemi said. 'I do not know if the Italian state, with its insufficient judicial structures, is really capable of combating such a highly evolved organization.'

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