Gangsters also took advantage of the business.
Near Switzerland, in the provinces of Como and Varese, police said, they initially offered their skills to local entrepreneurs to help them avoid paying taxes and make bigger profits – but then they threatened them, extorting money and eventually taking over their businesses. Investigators in the region have seized assets believed to be owned by ‘Ndrangheta’ worth more than 2.5 million euros, or 2.9 million dollars.
In one conversation that was wiretapped by the police, a gangster in northern Italy introduced another network member as “a good Christian – he was baptized with a sword, you know?” The reference was to the initiation rites of Calabrian mafia families.
A man is heard saying in another recording, standing next to trucks and containers in the port of Gioia Tauro, the largest maritime center in southern Italy, “This whole area belongs to us.” “I am in charge here and they have to bow.”
Prosecutors are also investigating the role of two local officials, the former mayor of a town near Como and a member of his council, who are believed to have met the ‘Ndrangheta gang in Calabria.
“Those who approach these people because of difficult circumstances or an illusion for good gain should know that they are playing with fire,” Milan public prosecutor Riccardo Targetti said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The authorities said the gangsters did not limit their activities to Italy.
The police said in a statement that the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland had become a “logistical base” for them. Some members of the organization live there and trade in drugs from Italy. The country’s laws are less strict when it comes to punishing a series of crimes, including the formation of mafia gangs.
“In Switzerland you can live,” one of the gangsters was overheard watching in eavesdropping. “Not like in Italy, where they put you in prison for life.”