Two MPs among 150 arrested in anti-Mafia sweep AGin AgAIN

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The Independent Online
Reggio di Calabria (AFP) - Italian authorities yesterday launched a major sweep against the Mafia in southern Italy, arresting 150 people including several Mafia henchmen and two legislators.

About 50 other suspects already serving prison terms were booked in the sweep dubbed "Operation Olympia" in which 300 arrest warrants have been issued against 259 people. About 30 suspects are on the run.

Arrests were made in Bari, Catania, Florence, Milan, Naples, Padua, Reggio, Rome and Turin in connection with more than 100 killings and other crimes going back 20 years against suspected members of the N'Drangheta, as the Mafia clan in the Calabria region is known.

The operation follows an intensive inquiry into N'Drangheta's activities since the 1977 killing of "Don Mico" Tripodo in a Naples prison. Investigators studied in particular the six years after 1985, when an undeclared war between rival clans broke out which left 500 people dead.

They found that the N'Drangheta had infiltrated the Freemasons and operated from phony lodges.

The inquiry does not merely implicate Mafia henchmen, but has been broadened to include senior civil servants, army and police officers and politicians. A total of 563 people have been investigated.

Two legislators of the post-fascist National Alliance, Renato Meduri and Fortunato Aloi, were charged with involvement in an attack on a train in 1970 that left six dead and 50 injured.

Preliminary investigations have also revealed co-operation between Mafia operatives and politicians that arose during reconstruction work following a 1980 earthquake in the Naples area. Among those arrested was former Social Democrat MP Paolo Romeo, accused of having links with the Mafia.

Investigators say the extreme right and the N'Drangheta worked together following riots in Calabria in 1970 in which demonstrators protested over the decision by Italian authorities to make Catanzaro the regional capital instead of Reggio.

The local extreme right tried to exploit public discontent in their call for the secession of Calabria and Sicily from the rest of Italy, while the N'Drangheta is accused of supplying the explosive that derailed the train, with union leaders on board.

Calabria's organised crime is among the most fully enmeshed in civilian life. On Sunday, two "untouchables", the city's top criminal prosecutor, and a former prison director were arrested for links to it.

Italian authorities have stepped up their campaign against organised crime in recent months, particularly in the south, where Operation Olympia is the biggest sweep ever mounted.

On Monday, Italian police swooped on members of six separate Mafia clans in the Sicilian city of Messina, detaining 22 people and serving arrest warrants to 50 others already behind bars.

In Naples, former interior minister Antonio Gava and four former parliamentarians were charged yesterday with having Mafia links.

Two bosses of the Camorra, the Naples Mafia, and 74 others were also charged and face a criminal trial set for November.