Mafia clan broken up, says police

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Italian police have broken up a major mafia clan, arresting 74 people and seizing businesses, land, race horses and a London-based online betting company, officials said yesterday.

Local politicians and businessmen in the southern Italian city of Bari were among those implicated as part of a three-year operation for collaborating with the Parisi clan.

Lt Col Salvatore Russo, the police official in charge of the operation, said 74 people were arrested, while an additional nine warrants were issued for suspects already jailed on separate charges.

The 48-year-old head of the clan, Savino Parisi, was arrested overnight along with his closest associates. They are accused of attempted murder, drug trafficking, loan-sharking, interfering with the bidding process for public contracts and money laundering. The confiscated assets total around €220m (£200m).

The operation "showed the true face of criminality" in the southern Puglia region, anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said. "It's a criminality that is projected in businesses which suck part of the resources of this land and invests it abroad," Grasso said.

A total of 11 other arrests were made in a separate, Sicily-based police operation yesterday.

Parisi, whose first wealth stemmed from an Italy-Serbian drug trafficking ring, had recently been freed after a 14-year prison sentence and restarted his criminal organisation.

With his associates, he "acquired full control of the territory and accumulated enormous wealth through crimes of every genre: from stealing trucks to loan-sharking with interest rates up to 300 per cent," police said.