Police in Italy have arrested at least 40 people over alleged links to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia crime syndicate.

The suspects were arrested in the provinces of Milan, Como, Lecco, Monza-Brianza, Verona, Bergamo, and Caltanissetta at the request of the anti-mafia prosecutor Ilda Boccassini in Milan on charges of involvement in organised crime, extortion, and possession of unlicensed firearms.

In order to gather evidence for the arrests as part of operation Insubria, police bugged mobile phones and were able to obtain video footage of the syndicate’s initiation rites or “Santa” for the first time.

The ‘Ndrangheta is based in Calabria, in the far south of Italy, which eclipsed the more famous crime syndicates of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Neopolitan Gomorrah in the 1990s and 2000s to become the most powerful mafia group in Italy.

According to a recent study by L’istituto Demoskopika, it is estimated that in 2013 the ‘Ndrangheta turned over around €53 billion (£44.1 billion), the equivalent to around 2.5% of Italy’s GDP, more than either McDonalds or Deutsch Bank.

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