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26 Apr, 2021 17:03

‘Black Axe’ bust: Italian police arrest 30 suspected members of Nigerian mafia gang

‘Black Axe’ bust: Italian police arrest 30 suspected members of Nigerian mafia gang

Dozens of people suspected to be members of a Nigerian mafia group, including the gang’s alleged leader, have been detained in Italy after a series of raids around the country, police have said.

The suspects, who are all Nigerian nationals, are believed to be part of the Black Axe mafia, which has attained a reputation for ritual murders, mutilation and rape since originating in Africa in the 1990s.

Those arrested face a raft of charges including drug trafficking, illegal immigration, prostitution, computer fraud and money laundering, which involved cryptocurrency, police said in a statement on Monday.

The operation – codenamed “Hello Bross” – involved state police, as well as officers in Rome, Rieti, Bari, Caserta, Naples, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, Catania, Genoa, Messina, Potenza and Terni.

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Police said they had arrested a 35-year-old man who led the Italian “branch” of Black Axe from his home in the city of L’Aquila in the central Abruzzo region. The gang’s parent organization is managed from Nigeria.

The suspects were directly connected to the gang’s Nigerian operations, as evidenced by their use of the same terminology, symbols, gestures and affiliation rituals, police said.

Most of the suspects’ alleged crimes are web-based scams, including using bitcoin to buy the numbers of cloned credit cards on the dark web for online shopping.

In a separate probe, police also announced on Monday that they had arrested 99 alleged members of the Strisciuglio clan in another huge mafia bust in the southern port city of Bari on Italy’s Adriatic Coast.

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More than 400 officers were involved in the investigation into the “mafia-type association,” which was launched in 2015 and has resulted in the arrest of the gang’s leaders.

The suspects face crimes including possession of weapons of war, drug trafficking, murder and extortion.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese hailed the two operations as part of Italy’s fight against organized crime.

“This proves the ability of the judiciary and police forces to fight against old and new mafia groups which are trying to extend their criminal reach and expand their business,” she said in a statement.

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