Leading Mafia experts and Italian newspaper claim Spain – particularly the Costa del Sol and Barcelona – is now the centre for global organised crime

THE rampant urban development witnessed in recent decades along the Costa del Sol has close ties with the Italian Mafia.

And the police are too inexperienced and weak to deal with these organised criminal gangs, which operate with the full complicity of some politicians on Spain’s southern coast.

That is the damning conclusion of an investigation carried out by one of Italy’s leading daily newspapers, La Republicca.

Quoting police chiefs in Napoli, the article calls the Costa del Sol “a Garden of Eden” for mafiosi (gang members) on the run from Italian authorities.

Senior officers believe that entire families have relocated to Spain and use also parts of Catalunya and the Balearic Islands as a base.

“These families have intimate ties with construction and even enjoy the blessing of the local authorities.

“The Mafia is also involved in drugs trafficking and has hotels and shopping centres under its control. This is how La Camorra (as organised crime gangs are known in Napoli) has Spain in its grip,” the article states.

The report appeared just a few days after a capo (Mafia boss) on the run from Italy was arrested in Barcelona.

Salvatore Zazo, 52, was detained during a joint operation between the Guardia Civil and the Italian police, the Caribinieri.

Spain and Italy recently signed an agreement to co-operate on Mafia crackdowns.

Zazo is considered to be a leading trafficker who, at one time, controlled Napoli’s drugs supply.

“There are a lot of mafiosi in Spain. They know the country well, and see it as a safe haven. Some invest in construction and set up companies to launder money, while others are involved with drugs or extortion,” said Carabinieri chief Gaetano Maruccia, who was involved in Zazo’s arrest.

Meanwhile, police in Madrid have detained two high-ranking mafiosi in Madrid.

Antonio Caiazzo, who is the alleged leader of an organised crime gang in Napoli, and his right-hand man, Francesco Simeoli were arrested while dining in a restaurant in the capital.

The two are thought to have absconded to Spain from Italy in 2007.

These latest arrests bring the total number of mafiosi detained in Spain to 12 since September last year.

In December, two capos were arrested in Málaga and Toledo, while in September two high-ranking members of a Napolese clan were detained in Barcelona.

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