ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss authorities arrested 15 Italian citizens on Tuesday and plan to extradite them to their home country, where law enforcement officials accuse them of membership in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia organisation.
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice said in a statement that Tuesday’s raid was carried out by agents in three cantons: urban Zurich and rural Thurgau, in the country’s north, and mountainous Valais, in southern Switzerland.
Two of the people taken into custody have already been sentenced in Italy to prison terms of six and nine years, it added.
Two other people have been invited for questioning by Swiss authorities but are not subject to extradition unless they agree to it because they previously obtained Swiss citizenship, authorities said.
Italy had requested the extradition of the 15 individuals starting a year ago.
Since then, Swiss federal officials said a review of the Italian documents led them to determine that activities of the group’s members broke Swiss laws, fulfilling a requirement for their extradition. The crimes carry Swiss jail terms of up to five years.
Based in Calabria, or the toe of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, the ‘Ndrangheta crime families have also set up criminal activities in northern Italy and in dozens of countries around the world.
Late last year, Italian police arrested nine people and seized 130 kg of cocaine, smashing a major smuggling ring run by the Calabrian mafia that had monopolised sales of the drug in Venice.
Reporting by John Miller