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organised crime Italian mafia suspects arrested in Switzerland

Two high-ranking mafia members, allegedly of the same organisation, were arrested in Italy at the end of January, found hiding in a bunker

(EPA/Police press office)

A number of suspected members of Italy’s 'Ndrangheta mafia have been arrested in Switzerland. The 15 people have been in prison since Tuesday awaiting extradition.

The arrest warrant was based on an Italian extradition request, according to the Swiss justice ministry. The Italian authorities have accused the suspects of being members of a criminal organisation. Specifically, they are suspected of being part of the 'Ndrangheta, one of the most powerful criminal organisations in the world, which is centred in Calabria, southern Italy.

In canton Thurgau, 12 people were arrested, one in canton Zurich and two in canton Valais. Two of those arrested had already been sentenced to prison terms in Italy, of six and nine years each.

The detainees are said to have taken part in rituals associated with the organised crime group, to have followed its hierarchical structure and to have shown unconditional obedience. 

The justice ministry said that an initial assessment showed that the facts laid out in the Italian extradition request would also have led to prosecution in Switzerland, and that the conditions for extradition had been met.

Two further suspects have been summoned to a court hearing, however as they are Swiss citizens they cannot be extradited without their consent. The arrestees will be handed over to the Italian authorities on Wednesday.

"Minimal" risk

Later on Tuesday, the justice ministry announced that all but one of the arrested individuals have refused extradition to Italy. One arrestee from Thurgau has agreed in principle, but has three days to respond definitively. 

It is up to the justice ministry now to decide how to proceed, based on written statements submitted by the arrestees and demands from Italy.

Under Swiss law, detention is the norm in extradition cases, but most of the individuals in question have lived in Switzerland for years and know they are under Italian investigation. The justice ministry said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that it believes that "the risk of flight or collusion is therefore minimal", and anticipates the individuals will be put on bail with "additional security measures" possible. and agencies

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