Italy’s Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano (pictured) has announced that in a pre-dawn raid police have confiscated $2.2 (U.S.) billion in assets and issued 41 arrest warrants for persons involved with illegal gambling operations in Italy and abroad. The crackdown is part of an official operation aimed at ‘alleged’ mafia organizations – what is considered to be an “economic power of gigantic proportions.”

Targets included 1,500 betting shops, 82 gambling websites, 56 companies, numerous property assets, and 11 foreign firms owned and operated by the ‘Ndrangheta crime organization. Also known as the Calabrian mafia of Malta, it is considered to be the most powerful, wealthy, and influential crime syndicate in the world.

The Malta Gaming Authority followed the police actions by immediately suspending the licenses of targeted Malta-based companies including the Uniq Group LTD, Betsolution4U Ltd, and the online gambling operation Betuniq. These Malta-based businesses are suspected of money laundering for other illegal activities including drug smuggling and tax evasion.

A U.S. diplomatic report estimates that ‘Ndrangheta’s drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering account for at least 3% of Italy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or approximately $72 billion a year with drugs accounting for 50% of that revenue. Even though the syndicate’s gambling enterprise is only a small fraction of their operations, it has been an important component for laundering illegally obtained income.

While six of the locations raided were in Malta, others included two in Spain, two in Romania, and one in Austria. It is estimated that ‘Ndrangheta operations have infiltrated 30 countries worldwide including Canada.