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York Regional Police cut the locks on gambling machines seized during raids in an illegal gaming investigation named Project Sindacato in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada July 15, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

Ontario’s York Regional Police said Thursday they had arrested nine suspected Mafia members allegedly involved in illegal gambling and laundering more than $70-million in Toronto-area casinos, seizing $35-million in assets, including five Ferraris.

Over three days, police raided 48 cafés, businesses and residences connected to the group, nabbing the alleged boss, Angelo Figliomeni, and eight other suspects on a raft of accusations, including money laundering, defrauding the government and participating in an organized-crime group.

Mr. Figliomeni, alias the “brigante” or the “bandit," developed a massive money-laundering operation in Canada, according to York police Detective Sergeant Carl Mattinen, who helped spearhead the investigation. Money was laundered through legal casinos, Det. Sgt. Mattinen added, saying Mr. Figliomeni’s organization had “cleaned an excess of $70-million in only a few short years.”

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The “Figliomeni Group” also ran illegal gambling dens out of cafés, 11 of which were seized by police. Police seized 27 homes and 23 luxury vehicles, including one Ferrari valued at $880,000.

York Regional Police cut the locks on gambling machines seized during raids in an illegal gaming investigation named Project Sindacato in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada July 16, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

A car-loan business was also used to launder money, police said.

Canadian police are still trying to track down one other man on related illegal gambling and drugs charges.

In Italy, home of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta Mafia, police arrested 12 people and sought two others in a parallel investigation for Mafia association, illegal weapons possession, fraudulent asset transfers and other crimes.

“The ‘Ndrangheta is a very dangerous criminal organization,” said Fausto Lamparelli, an Italian Mafia investigator who spoke at a news conference near Toronto. “Criminal organizations recognize no borders.”

Mr. Figliomeni has been sought in Italy for almost a decade and is appealing a 20-year jail sentence there. Because he is a Canadian citizen and the crime of Mafia association does not exist in Canada, he could not be extradited and was living comfortably in Vaughan, a suburb of Toronto.

One of five Ferraris seized by police in an illegal gaming investigation named Project Sindacato is parked in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada July 15, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

Although little known in Canada, the ‘Ndrangheta is a pervasive presence in the southern Italian region of Calabria – located on the toe of the boot – and today it has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful organized-crime group on the peninsula.

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Italian investigators say the ‘Ndrangheta, which is made of dozens of smaller clans that all answer nominally to a group of senior leaders in Calabria, makes millions of euros a year as Europe’s top cocaine broker. But Calabria remains Italy’s poorest and most underdeveloped region.

Strict anti-Mafia legislation makes it easy for authorities to seize mob-connected assets in Italy, which means the group often invests its criminal proceeds abroad.

Det. Sgt. Mattinen said a conscious effort had been made to go after the leaders of the clan and their assets instead of the people working for them.

“They’re a very powerful and violent group, so the way we approached the investigation was to go for the foundation which allows them to exist, not the individual crimes,” Det. Sgt. Mattinen said.

Some of the items seized by police during raids in an illegal gaming investigation named Project Sindacato are pictured in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada July 15, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

“Forensic accounting is not afraid, math is not afraid, documentary evidence is not afraid … We can tender that in court with no worry of recant due to fear from the community and the ‘Ndrangheta,” he added.

The investigation is continuing, Det. Sgt. Mattinen said.

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“It’s safe to say that with almost one year of wiretapping, we have a lot of information to go through.”

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