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Police arrest 16 Calabrian mafia suspects

Police arrest 16 Calabrian mafia suspects

Anti-mafia police in the southern Italian Calabria region on Monday arrested 16 people suspected of mafia association and extortion against local businesses in what they described as a major operation.

Police carried out "numerous" raids during the operation, which targeted the Calabrian mafia or 'Ndrangheta's Franco crime family, investigators said.

Among those arrested were several suspects alleged to have abetted Calabrian mafia fugitive Franco Giovanni while he was on the run in France, according to police.

The suspects allegedly met Giovanni several times in France and to fox investigators paid a courier to transport their mobile phones - charged up and switched on - to a tourist resort in northern Italy, police said.

To further throw investigators, during an other trip to meet Giovanni, the suspects left their mobile phones with alleged clan members to make it appear they were in Reggio Calabria instead of in France, said investigators.

Giovanni was arrested in November 2013 and is now serving a prison sentence of 11 years and four months for drug trafficking.

Police last week arrested 20 people in Calabria accused of a range of crimes including mafia association, drugs trafficking, extortion and possessing illegal weapons.

Drug trafficking, extortion and money-laundering rackets have in recent decades made the 'Ndrangheta Italy's wealthiest and most powerful criminal organisation.

The 'Ndrangheta operates throughout Italy as well as in Europe but its influence and networks extend from Australia to North and South America.