Spanish and Italian Police Dismantle Mafia Networks, Arrest 106
In a joint operation with Europol, Spanish police in the Canary Islands arrested on Monday 88 people and Italian police another 18 suspected of being connected to Italian mafia clans involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and fraud.
Spanish officers made the arrests as they raided 16 locations on the island of Tenerife, saying the suspects were responsible for computer scams generating more than 10 million euro (US$11.7 million) in a single year.
Authorities claim the suspects were tied to four clans, including the Casamonica clan based in Rome and the Naples branch of the Camorra organization.
Investigations began in 2020 when the Spanish National Police discovered persons believed to be tied to the mafia settling on Tenerife. Police say the suspects set up shop there to launder money illicitly obtained from computer scams carried out across Europe.
Authorities report that the scams included phishing and vishing (voice phishing) attacks. Police say the money generated was laundered through cryptocurrencies and mafia-connected shell companies, or reinvested into other criminal activities.
Shell companies targeted on the island included law firms and banks, so as to make money laundering harder to detect by authorities.
The mafia clans are said to have operated in an organized pyramid-like hierarchy, according to Europol. Providing analytical support for the police, Europol says that each mafia network employed personnel trained in specialized areas such as cyber fraud, money laundering, and cryptocurrency.
Computer scams weren’t the only crimes allegedly carried by these networks. Spanish police report they were also responsible for violent crimes on the island including kidnapping, robbery, extortion, and murder.
Police say that the fear of reprisal the mafia instilled in their victims played a large role in their crimes going unreported, thus allowing them to operate with impunity.
The clans are also implicated in a sizable drug trafficking operation. In one of the raids, Spanish police dismantled a fully equipped plantation of over 400 marijuana plants.
Video released by Spain’s Policía Nacional show footage of the raids, including the aftermath where the drugs are discovered and the suspects are taken into custody.
Italy’s Polizia di Stato conducted two raids in Turin and Isernia, leading to the arrest of 18 of the total 106 detained suspects.
Police froze 118 bank accounts allegedly used by the clans to launder their ill-gotten gains. Hundreds of accounts were said to be opened and closed to try to keep authorities off their trail.
Police say the mafia kidnapped a woman at gunpoint and forced her to open 50 online accounts for their criminal enterprises.