Italian police on Monday said it has arrested 30 Nigerian mafia members in 14 provinces across the country.
The head of one of the Nigerian mafia’s biggest gangs was arrested in the operation, police said, adding that it has “apprehended the leader of a major organisation,” said police.
The operation, Black Axe, was targetted at Italy’s Nigerian mafia and stems from a probe in L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Monday.
The police said those arrested have been charged with mafia association, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, prostitution, ‘romantic fraud’, Internet fraud and money laundering.
They face almost 100 charges, police said.
The recent arrests come about five months after a sweeping operation where police arrested 74 members of the Nigerian mafia, and claimed to have arrested the group leader, 50-year-old Emmanuel “Boogye” Okenwe.
About 200 officers targeted Boogye’s gang in Turin and Ferarra. The self-styled “King of Ferrara” headed the gang known as the ‘Arobaga Vikings’ or ‘Norsemen Kclub International.’
Turin has been the center of the Nigerian mafia in Italy for over a decade, Sergio Nazzaro, an Italian journalist, writer and adviser to the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, said.
Nazzaro recently published a book on Nigerian criminal organizations that have established a strong foothold in Italy. In some areas, those groups have even grown strong enough to muscle out native Italian crime groups, like the Camorra, Ndranghetta and Cosa Nostra.
The Nigerian mafia often controls the day-to-day street crimes, while the more established Italian groups have their hands busy with larger-scale corruption and white-collar crime.
Boogye’s gang, The Vikings, were known for dealing primarily with prostitution and drug trafficking.
Apart from Turin or Ferarra, they have established a wide network, with individual cells, known as “decks” in cities across the country.
While there is organized crime in Nigeria, Nazzaro explained that Nigerian mafia is a uniquely Italian phenomenon.
“There were criminal groups or cults in Nigeria, but they became mafias here in Italy,” Nazzaro said. “They got to know our criminal organizations here and began to move as mafia groups do. They had a teacher, a very good one, our own mafias.”