Spanish and Italian police have broken up a branch of the Ndrangheta mafia organisation that was reportedly setting up shop in Spain.
According to local media, the operation ended with the arrest of 25 people and four of the suspects are believed to be Ndrangheta mafiosi.
The Ndrangheta, based in the southern Italian region of Calabria, rose to become the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s and now spans the world.
The name is derived from the ancient Greek word for ‘courage’ and the organisation first appeared as an alliance of family clans in southern Italy in the 18th century.
The group was long associated with racketeering and kidnapping for ransom but it quickly grew through the 1970s and 1980s thanks to its involvement in drug trafficking to Europe from Latin America.
Prosecutors say it has developed offshoots in 30 countries while a 2014 study by the Demoskopika research institute estimated that Ndrangheta’s turnover is 53 billion EUR (46.6 billion GBP) a year, at the time more than Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s put together.
The suspects in Spain reportedly moved residence frequently and often lived in remote villages and buildings with difficult access in the southern provinces of Granada and Jaen.
Reports said that the cops seized 200 kilogrammes of drugs that were ready to be sent to Italy from the alleged new operation in Spain.
The National Police believe that the suspects planned to set up a drug trafficking route between southern Spain and Italy disguised as legal lorry deliveries.
The investigation began in 2016 in the Italian city of Florence when two citizens were arrested, leading to several local raids and the seizure of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, opium and ketamine, as well as 86,000 EUR (75,800 GBP) in cash, according to local media.
Nineteen suspects were reportedly arrested in Italy during the initial part of the operation.
Spanish police said that the second phase was more difficult because the suspects were frequently moving around and intentionally avoided big cities.
However, in the end four people were detained in Spain and two more in Italy, including the suspected head of the group.
Italian agents reportedly seized cannabis and cocaine as well as 90,000 EUR (79,350 GBP) in a hotel.