Europol coordinated an international police operation on July 1 which resulted in the dismantlement of the Sicilian Mafia Cosa Nostra crime syndicate of Barrafranca. Operation Ultra was led by the Italian Special Operation Department (R.O.S. Caltanissetta) of the Carabinieri (Arma dei Carabinieri), the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) and the Landeskriminalamt of Niedersachsen.
The suspects were involved in drug trafficking, the use of firearms, as well as extortion and corruption in public tenders. The suspect identified in Germany was taking advantage of his residence in another country to support and re-organize both the criminal assets of the Mafia clan in Sicily and the drug trafficking routes used to fund the criminal organization.
In total, 45 individuals were arrested in various locations in Sicily, and 60 house searches were carried out. Some €1.5 million were seized, alongside important documentation for the investigation. Furthermore, the deputy leader of the Mafia clan was arrested in Wolzburg, (Germany).
Operation Ultra is the second phase of operation Kaulonia, which on March 2019 led to the arrest of 25 suspects and revealed connections of the Mafia crime family of Barrafranca (Sicily) with Germany.
Europol supported the investigation by coordinating the information exchange and organizing several operational meetings during the investigation. The case was also supported by EU ISF ONNET project (Internal Security Funds), led by the Italian Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, which provides financial support to tackle all types of organized crime groups.
The operation followed an action day on June 30 where over 200 officers from the Italian Carabinieri (Arma dei Carabinieri) in Piedmont and the Italian State Police (Polizia di Stato) of Turin arrested 12 alleged members of the Italian crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta. This was a result of a long and complex investigation carried out by the Italian authorities with the support of Europol and law enforcement authorities from Croatia, France and Germany.
The operation, code-named ‘Altan’, began in 2017 targeting the ‘Ndrangheta clan Alvaro, based in the Italian region of Calabria and rooted in several cities across the country. This clan was active not only in Italy but also in other EU Member States. The mafia-structured organized crime group and its members were involved in international drug trafficking (cannabis and cocaine) and firearms trafficking.
The course of the investigation led the police to carry out 30 house searches and to seize a rifle and some narcotics during the action day. Among the 12 suspects arrested is the leader of the ‘Ndrangheta family in Calabria.
The operation shows the importance of international cooperation in tackling this organized criminal group which is one of the most powerful criminal networks in the world, and controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade, combined with systematic money laundering, bribery and violent acts.
Europol’s experts on Italian organized criminal groups supported this case by providing analytical and operational support, and the meetings organised at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague facilitated the exchange of information between all the law enforcement authorities involved.