300 'Ndrangheta suspects arrested

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At least 300 people were arrested across Italy in dawn raids against the powerful Calabrian Mafia.

One of the biggest crackdowns on organised crime in years, which included arrests in the US, followed a lengthy investigation into the 'Ndrangheta organisation, which specialises in crimes linked to business and the financial sector.

The man believed to be the top 'Ndrangheta boss, Domenico Oppedisano, was picked up in the small Calabrian coastal town of Rosarno. The largest raid took place in the northern region of Lombardy, where 160 people were arrested. They included Pino Neri, whom police said was in charge of the gang's businesses in Milan. Also arrested was the director of state medical services in the city of Pavia.

Investigators described the operation as one of the biggest blows ever to a crime organisation that is now considered to be more powerful than the Cosa Nostra in Sicily. The 'Ndrangheta has expanded out of its heartland in the poor southern region of Calabria to play a major role in organised crime throughout Europe and in the international drugs trade from South America.

The raids involved 3,000 police and the charges against those arrested ranged from murder and extortion to drug trafficking and criminal association. The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, said the sweep struck at the heart of the 'Ndrangheta and its finances.