Police in Germany and Italy have arrested 169 people and seized nearly $US60 million in assets as part of an anti-mafia operation targeting a cross-border extortion racket, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
At least 5 000 restaurants in Italy are in the hands of organised crime groups, the country's biggest agricultural association Coldiretti said on Tuesday.
As reported by CNBC, prosecutors accused the bosses of driving out all the baking competition in Ciro, Italy, so that residents and restaurants were forced to buy bread from the one mob-controlled bakery in town.
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The operation targeted the Farao-Marincola clan, part of the deadly 'NDrangheta from Calabria in southern Italy, which is believed to have a stranglehold on Europe's cocaine trade.
"They controlled all the economic activity in entire towns", Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told a press conference.
Carabinieri police said "dozens" of public administration officials were among the 169 people arrested.
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The aim was "to limit the use of violence as much as possible and avoid the internal struggles that are bad for business", Italian police said in a statement. The BBC reports that the faction was plotting to expand into neighboring Switzerland.
Italian prosecutors said the Italian suspects were accused of mafia association, attempted murder, extortion, money-laundering and illegal weapons possession, among other charges.
Eleven of the suspects, aged 36 to 61, were detained in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hessen and North Rhine-Westphalia on accusations of blackmailing and money laundering, German police said.
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Grattari called the arrests the most important step taken against the 'ndrangehta in the last 20 years. "We can't talk about mafia infiltration of the..."