World News

Italian police arrest 31 in Rome beachside mafia blitz

ROME (Reuters) - Police in Rome said on Thursday they had made dozens of arrests to break up an organised crime group in Ostia, a seaside suburb that has been one of the hotspots in a major anti-mafia investigation in the Italian capital.

Thirty-one members and affiliates of a suspected clan allegedly run by the Spada family were picked up in raids starting at dawn in Ostia, a police official said, while one suspect remained at large.

Ostia was the only one of Rome’s 15 districts to be put under direct government control because of alleged mafia infiltration after a wide-ranging investigation dubbed “Mafia Capital” led to dozens of arrests in 2014.

The spotlight returned to Ostia in November when Roberto Spada, gym owner and brother of a convicted mobster, was filmed headbutting a journalist who asked whether he supported a far-right group.

Roberto Spada and his older brother Carmine, known as “Romoletto” and identified as the clan boss, were among those arrested on Thursday.

Police said in a statement the brothers had ordered the murder in 2011 of Francesco “Little Moustache” Antonini and Giovanni “Black Rat” Galleoni, who were gunned down in front of bars and restaurants on a busy street just metres from the beach.

That double killing “assured the bloody Spada clan’s rise to power”, police said in a statement.

The group’s core business was extortion, but they also engaged in loan-sharking and drug trafficking, and formed an alliance with another local crime group, police said.

They controlled lucrative beach concessions, restaurants and gaming arcades in the district of 230,000 people, whose beach fills with day-trippers in the summer but whose backstreets struggle with poverty.

The city’s mayor Virginia Raggi thanked police, prosecutors and the Interior Minister for the arrests, writing on Twitter:

“Rome gets a new lease of life with the operation against the Spada clan in Ostia ... Together we say no to criminality. #MafiaGetOutofRome.”

Reporting by Isla Binnie and Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky