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Italy police arrest hundreds, seize millions in organized crime raid

Italian police on Tuesday arrested [press release, in Italian] more than 300 individuals and seized millions of euros worth of assets in a countrywide raid on the 'Ndrangheta [CNN backgrounder] crime organization. The predawn operation, dubbed "Il crimine," the largest such action in 15 years, involved more than 3000 police in numerous provinces, but most arrests were concentrated in the southern region of Calabria and the northern region of Lombardy. Among those arrested were Pino Neri, suspected of leading the 'Ndrangheta's northern operation in Milan, and Domenico Oppedisano, who authorities believe to be the head of the organization. The 'Ndrangheta has emerged in recent years as the largest of Italy's organized crime operations, and has been implicated [police report, in Italian] in illegal activities ranging from murder, kidnapping and extortion to drug and weapons trafficking and infiltration of local government. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [official biography, in Italian] characterized "Il crimine" as a major blow to the organization stating, "This is absolutely the most important operation against the 'Ndrangheta in recent years ... today [we] struck the 'Ndrangheta at the heart of its criminal system, both in terms of organization and in terms of finance."

Tuesday's arrests come amid controversy surrounding last month's advancement [JURIST report] through the Italian senate of a hotly contested bill that would impose new constraints on wiretapping operations. The bill [materials, in Italian] would criminalize the reporting of wiretap investigations by the media and would require a panel of judges to approve new wiretaps, something opponents of the bill claim would impair government efforts to combat organized crime. Last month, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] released a report detailing the globalization of organized crime [text, PDF; JURIST report] and its threat to international security. At a conference in May, Antonia Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UNODC called for international efforts to fight organized crime, warning [JURIST report] about the inadequacy of current checks and saying that criminal organizations are gaining economic strength [press release].

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