FBI, Carabinieri carry out major mafia dragnet  in Milan

Milan fruit and vegetable market a prime target.

Carabinieri and the United States’ FBI have collaborated in a vast operation involving 33 arrests in the US and Italy, including Milan.

The operation was mounted against the Piromalli ‘ndrina (family), described as “one of the most powerful clans in Italy's strongest and richest mafia, the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta.”

The clan was said to exercise "radical control over … the real-estate and agri-food sectors including Milan's fruit and vegetable market", as well as being involved in the container port of Gioia Tauro, part of the Reggio Calabria metropolitan area.

In the agri-food sector alone, the clan was reported to have interests worth €16 billion, centred in the US around “massive” penetration of the olive oil market.

The gang was allegedly led by Antonio Piromalli, 45, son of the family’s godfather, Pino, 72, who has been serving a jail sentence under the rigid “41 bis” prison regime for hardened criminals for the past 20 years.

Among other activities, Piromalli Jr is accused of selling fruit and vegetable produce through Milan’s central wholesale market and ensuring placement and payment of the produce through intimidation.

The charges against the arrested mobsters range from criminal association, drug trafficking, false attribution of property and recycling of motor vehicles to attempted murder, as well as other crimes aggravated by mafia membership. Assets worth some €40 million were seized.

Meeting in Milan last week, the parliamentary anti-mafia commission had already warned of severe infiltration by the ‘Ndrangheta in Lombardy, fourth Italian region for organised crime activity.

The main mafias, or organised crime syndicates, in Italy are: Cosa Nostra (Sicily, originally known as “the Mafia” before the term became used more widely), ‘Ndrangheta (Calabria), Camorra (Campania) and Sacra Corona Unita (Puglia). Although originally based in the regions quoted, the first three have in recent years expanded their activity outside their home territory, Cosa Nostra principally to the Americas, and ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra to northern Italy and beyond, especially to Lombardy and northern Europe.